Google has announced that phone calls to the US from Gmail for uniformed US military personnel from around the world will be free from now on.
This should make it easier for those abroad to call home, provided they have decent internet access, of course. Until now, Gmail charged these calls at the regular, international rates.
Calls within the US and Canada have been free ever since Google unveiled the phone call feature in Gmail. Google said it was a temporary measure, but has pushed back the deadline several times.
For now, Google says that these calls shall remain free at least until the end of 2011. Chances are, Google is going to extend the period beyond that. Calls from military personnel will also be free for the same period.
"We understand that it’s not always easy or affordable for our troops serving overseas to call friends and family at home," Ilya Frank, senior software engineer at Google, announced
"So starting today we’re making it completely free for all uniformed military personnel with valid United States Military (.mil) email addresses to call the United States, right from Gmail," he said.
The only requirement for the perk is to provide a valid .mil email address and link it to the Google Account. This assumes that it hasn't been linked already and that it hasn't been used to create the Google Account in the first place.
That's all that's needed, provided the voice and video Gmail plugin is installed and that the phone call feature has been set up properly and is functional.
Google is subsidizing the costs for these free calls, but they're rather cheap to begin with. The figure should be fairly small for the military personnel calls, though the bill for all US and Canada calls probably adds up to quite a lot more. It's nothing that Google can't afford in order to promote its VoIP service.