MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS — Ushering in a new era of cooperation between VoIP providers and incumbent carriers, Verizon Wireless (VZ) and Skype announced a new free application for Verizon smartphones that will allow Verizon customers to make unlimited calls using Skype on their smartphones. Called Skype Mobile, the new application will be available in late March, the companies said at the world’s largest trade show for the mobile and wireless industry, in Barcelona.
“We have 90 million customers who call each other, and that number now expands to 580 million Skype users,” John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, said in a press conference. “They can all now make Skype calls to and from anywhere in world. If you have a Verizon smartphone, you download a free app and you’re good to go.”
Fearful of cannibalizing their core business, major wireless carriers have to date been reluctant to allow VoIP services over their devices. With this deal, Verizon becomes the first incumbent to partner with a VoIP provider. The Skype calls, however, will travel over the Verizon circuit-switched network, not the Internet, and customers must have a Verizon voice and data plan to use the service. Skype calls on Verizon, then, are not technically free, but they will not count against the customer’s pool of minutes.
“We think this is a nice complement to our underlying voice services,” said Stratton, “and we’ll require a voice and data plan for customers who want to take advantage of it.”
Asked if Skype will make money off the application, CEO Josh Silverman said, “Sure we’re going to.”
Saying “We’re open to forming more relationships with operators around the world,” Silverman specified that the Skype Mobile application is, for now, exclusive to Verizon Wireless.
“We’ve seen a real change in the attitude of operators around the world” regarding VoIP services, added Silverman, “particularly with thought leaders like Verizon.” Skype’s partnerships with wireless carriers like 3, in the U.K., “have demonstrated that they make more money when they work with Skype.”