Skype is reportedly getting ready to add a new feature to its internet calling client that will let up to five people participate in a video conference at the same time. The new service will let it counter business-oriented offerings from the likes of Cisco Systems and Logitech-owned LifeSize Communications, and will initially be free when it launches next week. The company expects start charging for it once it passes beyond its testing stage.

The feature is aimed at companies looking to increase productivity while reducing expenses. Video conferencing enables just that by facilitating face-to-face communication with employees, customers and partners from home or the office. In its announcement, Neil Stevens, Skype's general manager of the consumer business segment said group video chat will first be available to those who use Skype on Windows PCs, with a Mac version coming out later this year.

The company also announced new subscription packages that range from 60-minute to unlimited packages in 1-, 3- and 12-month intervals. Prices now start as low as $1.09 per month and include calls to both cell phones and landlines in more than 170 countries. You can learn more about Skype's subscription rates here.