Boingo Wireless Inc. and Skype Technologies S.A. last week announced a service that gives inexpensive wireless hot-spot access to Skypes VOIP customers.
Skype Zones Powered by Boingo lets customers have unlimited access to Boingos network of 18,000 Wi-Fi hot spots for $7.95 per month or $2.95 for a 2-hour connection, using a custom version of Boingos client software that focuses on voice over IP.
"The cost is amazing, especially compared with international calling on a mobile phone," said David Hagan, president and CEO of Boingo, in Santa Monica, Calif.
Skype Zones Powered by Boingo includes connection management and roaming authentication capabilities as well as a global Skype user directory, contact lists and the ability to send instant messages to other Skype subscribers via Skype software.
The $7.95 monthly fee is mainly for the Wi-Fi access itself. Skype is known for its free client software, which allows subscribers to talk to other subscribers for free via the Internet. But Skype Zones Powered by Boingo also allows for voice calls to ordinary fixed and cellular telephones.
Initially Skype Zones Powered by Boingo is available only for Windows XP, so customers who purchase the service will be using their laptops or tablet PCs as phones.
One potential customer said this would not be a deterrent.
"I assume Id be using some sort of earpiece and mike so I wouldnt look like a complete freak, but Ive gotten so used to seeing people seemingly talking to themselves via Bluetooth that I dont think it will be too much of a leap to talk at your computer," said Byron Seese, art director at Krent/Paffett/Carney Inc., in Boston, who carries a laptop computer and a cell phone when he travels. "I dont think its too soon to start jumping on voice over IP. Internet phones have been around for a while, and the quality is pretty indistinguishable from the real deal."
If they receive positive feedback on the service, the companies will likely also target Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices, said Skype and Boingo officials.