Verizon Wireless and Skype announced a partnership Feb. 16 that will extend Skype mobile services to Verizon customers with data plans, over the Verizon 3G network.
Beginning in March, the Skype offering will be available to qualifying customers with nine 3G smartphones - the BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, 8830 World Edition and Tour 9630, as well as the Motorola Droid, HTC Droid Eris and Motorola Devour - before later extending to other models.
The offering will allow Verizon customers to make and receive unlimited Skype-to-Skype voice calls to any Skype user; call international phone numbers at Skype Out calling rates; send and receive instant messages to other Skype users; and stay continuously connected and clued into friends' online presence.
"Skype mobile ... [is] effectively giving customers with smartphones and data plans the option to extend their unlimited calling community to hundreds of millions of Skype users around the globe," John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon, said in a statement.
Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, added, "Verizon Wireless will give U.S. consumers the best Skype experience on mobile phones and will truly change the way people call their friends and family internationally."
On Feb. 5, Skype announced on its Web site that it was close to offering an app that would that let iPhone users place VOIP (voice over IP) calls over 3G networks. The company attributed the delay to waiting until it could offer the "very best audio quality" as well as tools offering feedback about each call, which it plans to offer with "CD-quality sound."
At the time of the February announcement, Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK that while many carriers hoped to delay the introduction of mobile Skype, it's unlikely they could stop it all together.
"For AT&T and other carriers, iPhone Skype will create additional downward pressure on the prices they charge for cellular voice calls," Mawston said.
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, added that VOIP is only one issue eroding the demand for carriers' standalone services.
"Many people - particularly younger consumers - are replacing traditional wire line services with cell phones, which has hurt traditional carriers like AT&T but benefitted wireless providers like Verizon," King told eWEEK.
"Rather than dropping voice calling prices outright, I'm seeing carriers of every sort, along with cable companies, working hard to bundle voice into larger data service packages. In such cases, the actual cost of voice calling - or high-speed Internet access, TV services, etc. - often remains essentially opaque. It's part of a bigger bundle."
He said that bundled monthly services are enabling carriers to get the prices they want for the data - even that of VOIP calls - being carried over their networks.
"I think that voice represents a small piece of that pie and an even smaller portion of the strategy behind bundled services," King said.