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January 02, 2013
Google Voice Stays Free for 2013

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

It is hard to argue with free calling, especially if you have an Android (News - Alert) smartphone.

So with the news that Google Voice is staying free in 2013, many rejoiced—myself included.

Google (News - Alert) Voice is the search giant’s voice-over-IP offering, which gives free calling and texting in the U.S. and Canada, as well as cheap rates for those wanting to make international calls. The service comes with a free phone number, and can be used from a web browser, from within Gmail, or from a smartphone such as the iPhone (News - Alert) or Android handsets. It is particularly well integrated with Android, since Google also makes that operating system software.

In addition to free calling in the U.S., voice calls to countries such as India are only 2 cents per minute. Such rates compare favorably with international calling cards and other VoIP providers, which can charge rates closer to 9-cents-per-minute, according to a recent article in PC Magazine.

There has been uncertainty whether Google would continue to offer Google Voice for free.

Earlier this year, according to PC Magazine, Google said that it would charge for its phone service if quality improved.

So, apparently call quality still is an issue Google is working on.

It is hard to argue with free, but Google Voice has never been perfect. Sometimes text messages will arrive late, or calls will go straight to voicemail. There are service disruptions, and sometimes the transmission quality leaves much to be desired. But free is hard to ignore, and the quality is good enough.

According to IBISWorld, 30 million Americans pay for VoIP service and the VoIP industry is expected to generate about $15.4 billion in revenue, as reported at Forbes. Actual usage is much higher, though, because many VoIP users such as myself do not pay for VoIP. We just happily use Google Voice.

The growth of VoIP is expected to increase at an annualized rate of 15.3 percent through 2017, according to the Forbes article.

Some speculate that Google Voice is remaining free for another year because it still does not have enough market share. The VoIP market is crowded, and companies such as Microsoft, with its popular Skype (News - Alert) service, have a much larger share of the market.

“While this is good news for avid Google users, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise,” noted Lisa Eadicicco at Digital Trends. “At the end of 2011 and 2010, the company announced that it would continue offering free voice calling via the Gmail chat widget, and it looks like that function is here to stay yet again.”

Google introduced voice calling through Gmail back in 2008, but said that this feature would only be free for its first year, added Eadicicco.

Free or not, VoIP is rapidly becoming the communications means of preference, particularly as enterprises upgrade or replace their legacy PBXs with VoIP routers and gateways from companies such as community host Patton, and adopt SIP trunking solutions and cloud-based hosted services as well.  

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXP. Follow us on Twitter

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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