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Skype Launches Low-Cost Global Calling Plans

The $9.95-a-month international calling plan for U.S. customers includes landlines and some cell phone calls to 34 countries.

Skype on Monday launched an aggressive $9.95-a-month international calling plan for U.S. customers that includes landlines and some cell phone calls to 34 countries.

The action by the eBay unit comes just days after eBay's chief executive John Donahoe indicated the auction company will seek to find and improve synergies between the VoIP calling unit and eBay's core auction operation. The Financial Times also reported that Donahoe indicated that eBay would "reassess" Skype if its "synergies" with the auction company aren't strong.

"This move is a natural step for Skype," said Stefan Oberg, Skype's VP and general manager for telecoms, in a statement describing the new calling plans. "We're making it even easier for the Skype community to call their friends and family who are not yet on Skype." It was not immediately clear, however, whether the new calling plan will represent a direct synergistic relationship between Skype and auctions.

When eBay acquired Skype, the auction company envisioned sellers and buyers on its popular auction site calling each other over Skype. That activity never gained traction and eBay subsequently wrote off $1.4 billion of the $4.3 billion it paid for Skype.

Skype has continued to thrive and grow with more than 309 million global subscribers using the system for VoIP phone calls, instant messages, and now video calls.

"We're building a great business," said Donahoe after eBay reported first quarter financial results last week. He cited Skype's "strong growth trajectory." Even so, Skype stands out in bold relief against eBay's PayPal electronic payments system, which is heavily integrated in its auction business.

Josh Silverman, who was named chief executive of Skype last month, praised the support eBay is giving to the VoIP calling service. "I am delighted with the support we get from eBay," Silverman told the Reuters news service. "Synergies are not an end in and of itself, just a means to help us achieve our full potential."

Skype built its success on undercutting the prices of established telecom providers, and the VoIP business is continuing that policy with the $9.95 plan it announced Monday along with a variety of other calling plans among 34 countries.

The plans cover most European countries, North America, and many Asian countries. For U.S. subscribers, a $5.95-a-month plan covers all of North America as well as major Mexican cities. Skype currently offers a $3-a-month plan for North American calls.

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