Google is expanding its Google Talk phone call service beyond the US to more than 150 locations around the world in 38 languages in an apparent bid to go head-to-head with Microsoft's Skype service.
Users of the Google Talk service from Gmail or Google+ can now buy calling credit in euros and pounds as well as US and Canadian dollars.
According to Gmail product manager Pierre Lebeau, there are no connection fees, callers pay only for talk time, and rates have been lowered to around 7p a minute to mobiles and 2p a minute to landlines in Europe. Calls to the US and Canada cost 1p a minute.
- For all call rates and a comparison with Skype, click here.
As soon as the service is available in a particular country, users of Google services such as Gmail will see a little green phone icon at the top of their chat list.
To use the service, users will have to install Google's voice and video plug-in.
"If you're a Google Apps user, your domain administrator must have Google Voice and Google Checkout enabled in the administrator control panel to be able to use this feature, Lebeau wrote in a blog post.
Many small businesses are turning to Skype to cut telephony costs, but with Google offering a lower-cost alternative, businesses and consumers may soon reap the benefits of increased competition.
Video: calling phones from Gmail