Internet call and chat service Skype will launch a new way to communicate next week via group video chat or conferencing.

TechEye spoke to Maggie Trott, Account Director for Skype UK, who told us the following:

“Group video calling in beta launches next week . Consumers and businesses can now do a video call with more than one person at a time, up to five people. It is part of a suite of new Premium features coming out later this year. It will be a free trial initially.”

She also gave us the following image showing the service in action:

Skype group video calls

While the new feature will initially be free, Skype plans to charge for it after three or four months once the beta period is finished. They are looking for feedback from users on the new service and asked TechEye staff to join in the beta. Since we use Skype, mainly to discuss pub crawls but occasionally for work, we plan to bring you the lowdown on this new feature very soon.

Skype launched its first public beta in 2003 and has become the preferred piece of software for internet calls to other net users or to landline phones. Skype offers free text and net-based voice chat, while charging for calls to phones, but it is group video calls that have been the most requested feature it has had.

The new service will be exclusive to PCs at first, with a Mac version coming later this year.