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Google Voice goes international and makes its VoIP service more affordable

As Google expands into social networking, the company is also quietly challenging Skype’s dominance over the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market.

While users have long been able to call others from within Gmail, the tech giant makes it even better by allowing Google Talk users able to call land-line and mobile phones around the world through Google Voice.

Google Talk Product Manager, Pierre Lebeau said in a Google blog that after last year’s rollout that made it possible for U.S. Gmail users to directly call any mobile phone or landline, starting today they are making this available to many more Gmail users who are outside the U.S.

The company has stated that the service is now being offered in 38 new languages, and users can buy calling credit in their choice of four currencies (Euros, British pounds, Canadian dollars or U.S. dollars) with no connection fees at all.

International users can now make calls from Gmail, or other Google services such as Google+ that support Google Talk’s protocol. While you can still call or video-conference with people for free over the Google Talk Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) network, you will need to buy credits if you want to use Google Talk to chat with people on their conventional phones in other countries.

Lebeau added that no connection fees means you only pay for the time you talk. He continued to say that they are also lowering the calling rates to over 150 destinations around the world.

For instance, it is now only about 10 cents per minute to call mobile phones in the U.K., France or Germany (landlines are about $0.02/min), $0.15 per minute to call mobile phones in Mexico and $0.02 per min to call any phone number in China and India. The complete rates list is available on the site. Also U.S. and Canadian users will be able to make free calls within their countries for the whole year, said Lebeau.

However, the new VoIP service is not available everywhere yet. Google has not said which countries will get it first. Instead, Lebeau simply stated, “We are rolling out this feature over the following days, so if it is available in your country you will see a little green phone icon at the top of your chat list and you will be ready to make calls, though you will need to install the voice and video plug-in first.

If you are a Google Apps user, your domain administrator must have Google Voice and Google Checkout enabled and installed in the administrator control panel in order to be able to use this feature, Lebeau added.

While Google does not outright say it, this new service roll-out is obviously targeted at Skype. In its rates charts, Google compares its fees with those of the leading Internet telephony provider – which we know it’s none other than Skype. And Skype is already part of Microsoft.

So, it’s another Google vs. Microsoft match-up again – a new battlefront in the war for Internet dominance.