Over-the-top mobile communications provider Viber just opened up its calling network to outside mobile phones and landlines – essentially it just gave its 200 million users the ability to make ordinary international phone calls from its iPhone(s aapl) and Android(s goog) apps.
The service is called Viber Out, and it’s probably no coincidence that moniker mimics Skype’s(s msft) global calling service SkypeOut. Viber is going after the same market of customers looking to make cheap international phone calls within a smartphone app. Viber claim is charging low rates, starting at 1.9 cents per minute, to different countries.
A quick scan of Viber’s website revealed some very inexpensive prices: 2.5 cents to Indian landlines (4.5 cents to mobile phones), 2.3 cents to Mexico (9.9 cents to mobile), 2.3 cents to all China numbers and 1.9 cents to the U.K. (5.9 cents to mobile). Customers can buy call credits through micropayments in the Google Play and iTunes stores, or they can buy them through Viber’s desktop app.
Like other OTT providers, Vibe is routing these calls over its international VoIP infrastructure, only bringing the call onto the circuit-switched phone network when it’s in its destination country. It’s a business model that has served Skype, Rebtel and dozens of other VoIP calling providers well for years.
Viber has pretty much been following Skype’s growth path in reverse. Instead of starting out on the desktop, it began on the smartphone and moved to the desktop earlier this year. Viber rolled out Viber Out early in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan to help its customers contact their overseas friends and family, but with the release of version 4.1 of its service, it’s launching Viber Out worldwide.