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Unlimited Monster Strikes Again…This time it’s Skype



Last week I wrote about how tech companies bend definitions of words in marketing campaigns. Today I learned that Skype’s ‘unlimited’ plans are in fact limited.

HP CTO Rahul Sood has been a Skype ‘unlimited’ customer for  years and today he had a conference call that lasted for four hours. When he tried to make another call he was greeted with an error message that asked him to try again tomorrow.

Skype offers a number of ‘unlimited’ calling plans, including one that offers calls within the U.S. and Canada for $2.99 per month. Additional options and calling geographies can push the price up to $14.99 per month or so.

As a lot of other big companies do, Skype emphasizes UNLIMITED when it sells its subscriptions. A link from the subscription sales page links to another page that outlines Skype’s definition of unlimited.

Calls to phones and mobiles and Skype To Go* calls are included in your subscription subject to a fair usage limit of 10,000 minutes per user per month, with a maximum of 6 hours per day. Also, no more than 50 different numbers in total can be called per day. If your subscription includes more than one country, then this is the total amount of minutes allowed per month on your account, and is not a separate limit for each country.

Sounds like quite a few limits to me. Now most people won’t run up against those limits during the normal course of a day (or month), but this is yet another example of a company being less than straight forward. I’m sure Rahul and other Skype users would gladly pony up a few extra bucks for a truly unlimited plan.

In the meantime, he should give Gmail’s new calling feature a shot.

Are there any services or companies that have shortchanged you with ‘unlimited’ offerings?



  1. Roger J

    08/26/2010 at 3:36 am

    Looks like he exceeded the unlimited fair usage. reasonable response in my book, the complainer should try the new Gmail phone service just announced.

    • Roger J

      08/26/2010 at 3:39 am

      Meant to make clear that I find the response of Skype reasonable. Four hours is too long for any form of communication, whether by phone or Internet, unless negotiating for lives.

      • Rob

        08/26/2010 at 8:52 am

        In your world, four hours might be too long. But applying your technological limitations to the rest of the world doesn’t scale well. What about the soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan talking to his wife and kids? What about four employees working virtually needing to work through the development of a project?

        • Roger J

          08/26/2010 at 2:02 pm

          Rob, not sure what you mean by ‘your technological limitation’. A joint work session by the four project employees need not be a Skype or telecon event, it can be done by other available methods.

          I DO find myself working where the technology is indeed more limited. On one assignment I did in Kabul (civilian, nothing to do with the military etc!), the bandwidth available for civilians and contractors was limited by miltary comms traffic. Kosovo was great once the new infrsstaructure after the 1998/99 civil war was renewed, very fast Internet via TV satellite receivers.

  2. GTaylor

    08/26/2010 at 7:01 am

    This is what happens when marketers educate the populace, people forget that words and principles have meanings. So when marketing departments do things like this, many complain but few actually try to formulate the grievance into ‘right and wrong’.
    Thanks for the good work Xavier.

  3. dstrauss

    08/26/2010 at 11:09 am

    Xavier is right about this one. It seems that the telecom industry is the worst abuser of the word “unlimited” which in no sense of the word (even in teh hands of lawyers) can mean “limited.” Call it jumbo, call it super-sized (or call it rediculously limited like Verizon) but NOT unlimited.

  4. Virtuous

    08/26/2010 at 1:35 pm

    The Federal Government needs to crackdown. Unlimited now means limited. Truth in advertising must be enforced. 4 hour conference calls are not too long. Skype is full of it!

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