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Skype plays conference calling card

With free acronyms: P2P, VoIP

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Skype, the upstart provider of peer-to-peer VoIP telephony services, has added conference calling to its portfolio. The new service lets up to five people to talk simultaneously using their broadband connections.

As with its original product, Skype's Beta 0.97 is available to download for free, and has no time restrictions on calls.

Following the launch of its P2P voice-over IP service in August 2003, Skype has been criticised for the quality of its calls. Analysts also question the strength of its business model, arguing that the main incentive to switch to VoIP - the price - is being undermined by cheaper and cheaper traditional telephony.

Skype faces other challenges: traditional telco players are sniffing around the edges of the market - BT for instance is marketing its VoIP services to BT Yahoo! subscribers (although seems to be biding its time before going mainstream).

Scepticism aside, Skype seems to be going down well with Net users. It is currently offered in 15 languages and has nearly three million users from more than 165 countries, and claims 15 new user registrations per minute. ®

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