Skype 3G app to hit Verizon phones in March(Read article summary)
The partnership between Skype and Verizon is a major breakthrough for VOIP company, which has long fought to be heard on mobile phones.
The wait is over. After weeks of rumors and speculation, Skype has confirmed it will partner with Verizon to bring a Skype app to a range of Verizon-powered smartphones, including the BlackBerry Curve and the BlackBerry Storm. For anyone unfamiliar, Skype allows for calls over the Internet rather than through traditional phone lines – and therefore avoids phone bills and mobile minutes.
According to Skype, this new app will run on Verizon's 3G service, and not just on Wi-Fi, which means the app will be more easily accessible on the fly. Expected roll-out date? Next month.
Of course, a 3G-enabled Skype app is meant to be coming to the Apple iPhone, too, but Skype has been vague on the release date. (iPhone owners can currently only access Skype through a Wi-Fi connection.) As Kevin J. O'Brien writes today in the New York Times, service providers are traditionally cagey about green-lighting Skype apps:
[M]any operators still block its calls, prohibit its customers from downloading Skype’s software or outlaw the use of VOIP [voice over Interner protocol] service in standard sales contracts. Some are imposing fees to undermine Skype’s attraction. In Germany, customers of T-Mobile can place calls using Skype, but only if they pay an extra €10, or $13.80, per month. At Vodafone in Germany, the extra charge is €5 per month.
The Verizon deal could be an exception. The Skype 3G app will allow free and unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls. Well, maybe free is the wrong word – you'll still be sucking up your data plan when you use the Skype app. (Better opt for the unlimited data package before downloading Skype.) So how big of a deal is this Skype announcement?
There's nothing inherently historic about Skype being available on phones -- it's on the iPhone (albeit over Wi-Fi only right now) and I first used the service on a Windows Mobile handset years ago. (Only briefly, though -- it taxed the phone to the breaking point, and voice quality was pretty miserable.) But a major carrier such as Verizon not only grudgingly permitting Skype but buddying up with it as a selling point for its phones is an interesting twist.
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Editor's Note: AT&T does offer a handful of VoIP applications for various 3G and 2G and Wi-Fi-equipped devices. The 3G Skype app for the iPhone, however, has not yet been released.