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Verizon bringing Skype to wireless users

In Online/Interactive, Social Media on February 18, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Verizon bringing Skype to wireless users

By Jon Swartz, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO — Skype on Tuesday announced a major deal with Verizon Wireless that would make its inexpensive online-calling service available to up to 90 million Verizon users, vastly expanding Skype’s presence on smartphones.

“This is an important step in making Skype available anytime, anywhere,” Skype CEO Josh Silverman says.

The deal gives Verizon customers with smartphones and data plans the option of making unlimited calls to hundreds of millions of Skype users worldwide, beginning next month. It extends to BlackBerrys and Android smartphones that run on Verizon. Those calls would go over Verizon’s network, not using cellphone plan minutes. Minutes would be deducted to use Skype to call regular phone numbers in the U.S., Verizon said.

Verizon’s version of Skype mobile will not work on Wi-Fi, the companies said. There are no current plans to integrate Skype into Verizon FiOS TV, a high-speed service used by consumers.

Skype’s plunge into mobile is part of its plan to be a must-have tool for small and midsize businesses. It has 521million users who gobble up 12% of the world’s international calling minutes.

Skype is a fixture on PCs, but the company wants to tackle the mobile and TV markets. Skype is available on Wi-Fi on Apple‘s iPhone but not on AT&T’s data network. Skype for Verizon will be pre-installed on phones; consumers must download a Skype-for-iPhone app.

“People don’t always want to be tethered to their computer,” says Russ Shaw, head of Skype Mobile.

Last month, Skype signed a deal with top TV makers Panasonic and LG Electronics to integrate the service into their Internet-connected, high-definition TVs later this year.

Should its multiple media pushes succeed, Skype stands to gain millions of users as business use expands.

“Skype’s goal is to be the Google of communications,” IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen says. “It wants users to gravitate toward using Skype as their de facto standard for communications — whether it’s IM, voice, video.”

Its ambitions put Skype in Google’s crosshairs, Swensen says. Google has snapped up communications companies and courted mobile users with phones based on its Android operating system. And it has a knack for offering online services for free.

As for Verizon Wireless, it hopes to attract new subscribers who will buy smartphones and sign up for data plans; such users typically generate more revenue than Verizon will lose on international voice calls.

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