Google has confirmed that it will be extending its free phone service for Gmail users in the US and Canada in 2013.
Launched in 2009, Google Voice is Google’s offering to the lucrative Voice over IP (VoIP) market that allows users with a microphone on their computer to call phones over the Internet. Since Google integrated Google Voice into Gmail and did away with the invitation-only access, the service has gained over 1 million users, over half of whom use the service seven days a week.
The service, which has been free for US and Canadian users since 2010, is set to remain so at least for the next year.
“Many of you call phones from Gmail to easily connect with friends and family. If you’re in the US and Canada, you’ll continue to be able to make free domestic calls through 2013,” writes product manager, Mayur Kamat on the Official Gmail Blog.
“Plus, in most countries, you can still call the rest of the world from Gmail at insanely low rates,” he adds. Rates for calls outside the US and Canada currently start at $0.02 per minute according to Google.
Many are suggesting that Google Voice offers a real challenge to main competitor Skype which continues to dominate the VoIP market. The major advantage, for Gmail users at least, is that it is quicker to make the calls via your contact list, doing away with having to add someone’s Skype ID.