Verizon, Skype To Hook Up At MWC

Igniting a firestorm of speculation across the Web – well, maybe a brushfire – Skype and Verizon Wireless (VZ) said they will hold a joint press conference at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The companies did not divulge details of the pending announcement. Participating in the presser will be John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Verizon Wireless, and Skype CEO Josh Silverman. The most likely outcome is that Skype’s VoIP service will run across Verizon’s 3G network.

That would be a remarkable development considering that Verizon has, until recently, been among the most adamant of the major carriers in resisting VoIP services on its network. Skype, meanwhile, has loudly criticized the big carriers, noting that little progress has been made on their promises to open their networks to outside applications, including VoIP services.

A Verizon-Skype hook-up would be the latest in a series of partnerships, or outright acquisitions, involving major carriers and VoIP providers.

AT&T, the exclusive provider for the iPhone last year said it would allow the Skype iPhone app to work on its 3G network. BT Group (BT) two years ago acquired VoIP provider Ribbit, in one of the first major acquisitions of a VoIP startup by an established carrier. And last month Telefonica (TEF), a major Euro-telco, finalized its purchase of U.S. VoIP startup Jajah.

Cable companies are also moving rapidly to build out their VoIP capabilities. Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) – already the leading provider of VoIP in the country, with 7.4 million subscribers – said last week it would acquire wholesale VoIP provider New Global Telecom Inc.

The Verizon-Skype press conference will be held at 5:15 p.m. local time in Barcelona, or 11:15 a.m. East Coast time.

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