Skype is a voice over IP (VoIP) application that offers both voice and video chat capabilities. Skype users can create conference calls by combining three or more callers on one single call. All Skype users can create voice conference calls with up to 25 users. Skype's cross-platform capabilities, free basic service and premium features make it a good choice for group-conference calls.
Skype is available on multiple platforms with applications available on Windows, Mac and Linux as well as Apple iOS, Google Android and Symbian mobile device operating systems. This cross-platform availability allows users various options to participate in a Skype-based conference call. Users can also add conventional telephone numbers to a Skype-based conference call using Skype Credit.
Group video calls require that at least one user participating on the call has either Skype Premium for home users or Skype Business for professional users. Group video calling can support up to ten users, however Skype recommends a maximum of five users for optimal video quality. As of January 2011, Skype allows group video users to call conventional phone users although phone users will be able to participate via voice only.
Skype is free to download for personal and business use and voice conferencing is part of Skype's free features. Premium features, such as using Skype to call a traditional phone or to enable group video conferencing, are available on a per-use basis via Skype credit.
Along with conference calling, Skype allows users to share files via the chat or conference call interface. Screen sharing allows users to share a window or their whole desktop with other Skype users and is typically used for things like software demonstrations.
Hardware and Network Considerations
The quality of the voice and video transmission is largely dependent on the end user's hardware and Internet connection. Video chats require a Webcam on a computer with at least a 1 GHz processor and a broadband connection speed of 512 kilobits per second (kbps) downstream and 128 kbps upstream. For optimum performance, Skype recommends a 1.8 Ghz or better processor with a broadband connection speed of 4 Megabits (Mbps) or more downstream and 512 kbps upstream.
WebEx and Go To Meeting both offer similar services with voice over IP calling, group video chat, file sharing and desktop sharing for a monthly subscription fee. With the exception of group chat, Skype offers all of the similar services for free.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images