Facebook Debuts Free Video Call Service

John Lister's picture

Facebook has begun rolling out its free video and audio call service to other Facebook users via its Messenger app. It's arguably the biggest challenge yet to the Skype audio and video calling platform, which is now owned by Microsoft.

Facebook began offering video calls back in 2011, when it partnered with Skype but has since developed its own technology. The new call service works in the dedicated Facebook 'Messenger' app, which is available only on smartphones and tablets and does not work through the Facebook website. Last year, Facebook removed the messaging feature from its main 'Facebook' app, and instead made it exclusive to Messenger.

Service Works On WiFi and 3G

Unlike other video calling apps, Facebook Messenger calls will work whether you are connected to the Internet via WiFi or cellular data, such as 3G or 4G.

When WiFi is available, all audio and picture data is sent using VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and doesn't count toward data usage on a cellphone plan, which can be expensive. If WiFi is not available, the app will use cellular transmission.

Audio and Video Quality Can be Adjusted

Facebook says it will automatically adjust the audio and video quality based on the strength of the connection, meaning calls should be possible even in areas with poor cellphone reception and no WiFi.

It also says there will be an option to switch the video feed off at one end, rather than sharing the audio and video bandwidth between both people. That could be useful if, for example, one caller is in a remote, exotic location and wants to show off the surroundings in a higher resolution.

Voice-Only Calls Also Possible

It's also possible for both users to switch off video and turn it into an audio-only conversation, just like a normal phone call. For now it will only be possible to make one-on-one calls, though group calling is rumored to be in the works. (Source: techcrunch.com)

Facebook says it won't be making money directly from the voice calls, which it says will remain free. Instead, it sees the voice and video calling as a way to get people to spend more time using its services.

Facebook believes its big advantage over rival video call services is that it does not require people to find and add usernames or email addresses for contacts before making calls. Instead, users can use their existing Facebook friend list to get connected. (Source: gizmodo.com)

What's Your Opinion?

If you use Facebook, would you want to use the video call service? If you already use a service such as Skype, what features would tempt you to use Facebook instead? Does the fact that the new service currently only works on mobile devices put you off from using it?

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infopackets.com_4228's picture

I'm pretty sure this is not new. We've had the ability to call using FB Messenger for months.

John Lister's picture

Messenger already allowed voice calls. It's the video calls that are new.

gmthomas44_4203's picture

Why limit it to cell/tablets, why not desktop and laptop??
I would try it to compare to Skype if offered.