Your next video conference on Skype may now be free. Skype announced this week that its Skype group video calls  service is now free for up to 10 participants on some platforms.
Prior to this, group video calls on Skype had been available only if one participant had a premium membership ranging from $4.99 a month to $8.99 for a single day pass. Skype launched the Skype group video calls service for premium members back in January 2011, The Next Web reports .
The company, which is owned by Microsoft, says the new free version is available for Windows and Mac desktop users as well as those who connect via the Xbox One game console so far. But in an official post on Skype’s “Big Blog,” Phillip Snalune, General Manager of Consumer Product Marketing, said the free service will eventually be available on smartphones, tablets and other platforms too.
Snalune explained :
“While Skype is known for one to one video calling, we know it’s also essential to connect with the groups of people who matter most, whether friends, family or colleagues.”
The new free video call service could be seen as an attempt by Skype to compete with services like Google Hangouts. It comes at a time when the market seems flooded with comparable services like Spreecast , and when others like Skype rival Viber  are moving increasingly into the video chat space.
Comparing Skype and Google Hangouts, both allow groups of up to 10 people to be in the same video call. But PC World reports  that Skype considers groups of between three and five to be optimal. Google Hangouts is available as a mobile app while the service is still pending for Skype.
Both services are relatively easy to use, especially for creating and conducting group video calls. To start a new Skype group video call, one user begins by selecting a contact from their list. From that contact’s Plus (+) menu, selecting “Add People” will open a dialog box with more contacts to choose from. Once all the contacts for a specific call have been chosen, selecting the big green Video Call button will ring all the contacts at once.
The addition of Skype group video calls could be important for international business too. A recent study showed Skype international calls grew by 36 percent in 2013 . The increase in volume of Skype calls the same year was 50 percent more than the growth in volume of every other telecommunication system in the world.
The new service clearly puts one more tool for free video conferencing easily in reach for small businesses.