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3 UK brings VoIP to cheapskates

Skype handset to launch Monday

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3 UK has admitted that it's working on a Skype phone to bring VoIP connectivity to more of its mobile customers.

3 Skype phone

3 UK's Skype phone - allegedly.

While the mobile operator would confirm the phone's existence, exact details are scarce, though industry rumours suggest the handset will be launched Monday and available in-store by Thursday.

The phone will be available on a £12 a month contract as well as pay as you go, and will feature a 2MB camera and MP3 player as well as video playback.

3 has been offering Skype for a while, on its X-Series range, but rather cleverly the connection isn't really end-to-end VoIP. The connection from the phone handset to 3 is over normal cellular lines; circuit-switched with guaranteed quality, it then switches to VoIP for the rest of the connection. This doesn't guarantee the quality of a Skype call, but it goes a long way to mitigating the problems of being mobile.

This also means the handset doesn't have to do all the complicated VoIP stuff - and this (we understand) is what 3 is planning to launch next week.

Sources close to the firms say calls to other Skype users will be free, though it's unlikely 3 will allow SkypeOut minutes to be used.

The full details are to be announced Monday, and today neither 3 nor Skype would confirm the finer points of the package. ®

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