Skype and United Kingdom wireless carrier 3 Mobile are set to launch a customized cell phone jointly developed by the two companies later this month.
Code-named "white phone," it will first be released in Britain, Italy, Hong Kong, and Australia before being rolled out to other markets at a later date. The result of this collaboration will make Skype completely mobile for the first time.
This partnership is unprecedented as it runs contrary to the traditional rivalry between mobile operators and VoIP providers. Offering free or very cheap calls over the Internet pits VoIP providers squarely against mobile operators who charge customers for their calls, or "air-time."
It is indeed a radical step forward, since until recently wireless carriers have resisted the idea of mobile VoIP. Carriers, for example, have requested that manufacturers exclude features like Wi-Fi in cell phones to prevent customers from making free or cheap VoIP calls using hotspots instead of cellular networks. Phones with built-in Wi-Fi are now more abundantly available in the U.S., but many still have the VoIP calling capability disabled.
It is worth noting in this case that Skype will be giving 3 Mobile a share of the revenue. 3 Mobile will not be levying an additional charge, though users will be required to spend a minimum amount each month.
- Skype goes mobile (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Imminent release of 3 Mobile's Skype phone (VoIP News)
- Skype to release branded mobile phone (SlashGear)
- Skype to launch handset for UK (TechCrunch)
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.