Gmail users in the UK are now able to make low-cost calls from the email client to landlines and mobile phones.
Google has rolled out VoIP calls from within Gmail to the UK. Screenshot: CNET News
It was already possible to make free Gmail-to-Gmail voice calls in the UK, but on Tuesday Google said in a blog post it was opening up the paid-for Google Voice functionality to users outside the US for the first time. People in US have been able to do this since last year.
"You can now buy calling credit in your choice of four currencies (Euros, British pounds, Canadian dollars or US dollars) and there are no connection fees, so you only pay for the time you talk," Gmail product manager Pierre Lebeau said in the blog post. He added that the service is now available in 38 languages.
Google Apps users will have to get their domain administrators to enable Google Voice and Google Checkout in order to use the service, Lebeau noted.
The move will make Google a stronger competitor to Skype, currently the world's leading voice-over-IP (VoIP) provider. For example, calls made from Gmail to mobile phones in the UK, France or Germany cost eight euro cents (7p) per minute. Calls made from Skype to the same numbers cost around 15p per minute.
Skype and Google also recently became competitors in the market for video calling inside social networks. Skype's service is now integrated with Facebook, and group video-chat is a prominent feature of the Google+ social network.
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