Feeds

3's Skype phone is go

Hello? I'm calling via the interweb! Nah, it's rubbish

Boost IT visibility and business value

Mmobile operator 3 finally released full details of its new Skype handset at an event in London today. Early adopters can expect free calls, but no guarantees of reliability.

Skype was brought crashing down in August by a Windows update.

Michael van Swaaij, who stepped in as acting CEO at Skype when founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis took eBay's money and ran at the beginning of this month, was unapologetic about the outage. "Skype is a four-year-old company. That was the first time something like that has happened."

Van Swaaij said if Skype goes down again, 3 subscribers cannot expect to get normal voice minutes in lieu. "Maybe in another four years they will. I don't know," he added.

The 3 Skypephone, built by Chinese manufacturer Amoi, will cost £49.99 on pre-pay and will be free to monthly contract subscribers. Skype calls and instant messenger are free for up to 4,000 minutes talk or 10,000 chat messages per month.

Unlike with 3's X-series phones, users are automatically signed in to internet telephony, which is accessible via one click of the Skype button. The VoIP contact list integrates with the normal phonebook too.

Otherwise, it's a standard cheap 3G handset with a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, web browsing, Java, and 256MB SD memory card. There's no HSDPA, though 3 CEO Kevin Russell said it would be "the next step" for the joint venture. Other features such as a qwerty keyboard are probable too, he added.

The first Skypephone will be available only from Skype online and from 3's own stores from this Friday. Selling through independent retailers will be dependent on the project's success, the operator said.

Russell was predictably bullish, promising to "hit the ground running" and aiming for "hundreds of thousands" of sales.

Other manufacturers were approached when the tie-up was in planning 12 months ago, but 3 said it chose to use a white label maker and Qualcomm's Brew software platform to keep the final price as accessible as possible. The relationship between 3 and Skype is exclusive, but only for "a short time", according to the VoIP firm.

SkypeIn and SkypeOut are not available because of technical difficulties. Russell said the duo would have the kinks ironed out so that users can call and be called by non-Skype phones in the first half of next year.

This handset will not work in the US either. A 3 rep told the Reg that it had missed the deadline for FCC approval. The final software build was only completed three to four weeks ago, he said.

3's expecting average revenue per user to be about the same for Skypephone and non-Skypephone subscribers. It may be instructive to see if it releases those numbers come next financials round. The longer term aim is to reduce churn by offering a service no other operator yet dares to.

The Skype handset could be the first of several internet service-centric handsets for 3, which is very keen on carrying more IP traffic.

Russell took the opportunity to call on his operator rivals to address the challenge of the internet. "Today is another strategic step forward in where we want our business to go," he said. "I haven't heard a clear articulation yet from any [other] incumbent." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.