Skype, the Internet calling service owned by eBay, said Tuesday that as of Jan. 1 it would begin charging $30 a year for unlimited calls to landline and mobile phones within the United States and Canada. Those calls had been free since last spring.
The new annual fee for unlimited calling, while still nominal compared with other Internet calling plans, is part of a broader strategy by eBay to expand Skype’s product offerings and revenue.
EBay, the online auction giant, paid $2.5 billion for Skype in October 2005, prompting criticism from some analysts that it had overpaid for a start-up company focused on a different market and technology.
EBay executives assert that Skype can help it by allowing low-cost voice and video communication between its buyers and sellers. In addition, eBay wants to capitalize on Skype’s base of 136 million registered users. Download eBay Toolbar
As a promotion, Skype began allowing its users to place free domestic “SkypeOut” calls from their computers to traditional and mobile phones last May. At the time, the company said the promotion would extend only through year’s end. The company is offering a half-price subscription to those who sign up before Jan. 31. Calls from one computer to another have been and will continue to be free.