At a Glance
- Easy to create groups galore; Calling features are intuitive
- Might require some system upgrades; Pricey daily rate; Call quality breaks down in larger groups
Use Skype’s monthly subscription service to initiate group video calls for up to 10 people.
How would you and your contacts like to be on Hollywood Squares
or the Brady Bunch grid? That’s what it looks like when you use
Skype Premium, a group video conference service that’s easy to set
up and use. For a $9 monthly subscription or a $5 day pass, Skype
Premium lets you include up to nine additional people on video
As a subscriber to Skype Premium, you’re the host; no additional
software needed. Provided each party has a decent Webcam, solid
bandwidth, a powerful computer, and (of course) Skype 5.1 (or
later) or Skype
5.0 for Mac, your video call window is populated with a bunch
of talking heads. The good news is that only the host in a group
of, say, 10 people needs to be signed up for Skype Premium. The
rest can just stand by and wait to be invited to join group video
calls, month after month.
Setting up separate groups of contacts is a breeze. Within the
standard Skype app, you simply drag and drop Skype contacts’ names
into a window to create a group. Then you give your group a name,
and the group name is automatically added to your contacts’ list.
To make a call, I click my group’s name, as I would any contact,
and Skype calls these five people in one fell swoop. Skype also
makes it easy to whisk off group text messages.
Call quality during testing was impressive, as long as there
were no more than three or four people on a call. Compared to
Skype’s free one-on-one video calls, the audio and video
experiences in the bigger group calls were noticeably inferior. In
a series of six-person calls, where we were all using residential
broadband, contacts complained about others’ grainy or non-existent
videos and voice packets breaking up more than usual. On a five-way
test call, with four parties on a corporate network, the overall
quality dramatically improved.
Before now, your other options for multi-party video calls
included Oovoo and SightSpeed
Business. As of this writing, compared to Oovoo and SightSpeed,
Skype provides the most affordable multi-party calling
package–without factoring in the additional features that those
services offer. For example, both Oovoo and SightSpeed let you
record your video and voice calls.
If you’re a Skype die-hard who uses its service extensively for
work and fun–and you’ve been longing for group video calls–put
Skype Premium to the test for free for 7 days. (Skype Premium
subscribers can also tap into Live Chat–one-on-one support from a
Skype tech. This feature is not available to trial users.)
$9 per month feels reasonable, as long as you can get tons of
mileage out of it. (Check out Skype’s fair
usage policy.) The day pass, costing just 4 bucks less, is
super-expensive, by comparison.
For group video calls to work well, every participant needs
solid bandwidth and meaty machines. Skype recommends using
computers with a Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz processor (or a 1GHz processor,
at a minimum). Naturally, as hinted at above, crummy Webcams and
network issues will affect the overall call experience, so be
prepared to nag your Skype contacts to upgrade their gear: Skype
software, their Webcams, and even their PCs. It’s worth it to see
your face–and hear your voice–in one place.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s site,
where you can download the latest version of the software.