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Skype shelves call charges

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VoIP operator Skype has shelved plans to charge users for 3G calling, claiming that operator plans to bill by the byte make such charges redundant.

The company's last iPhone client allows calling over a 3G data connection, but when it was launched Skype warned that the capability would be restricted to those paying an additional premium – to be split with the network operator. But the latest update removes that threat, on the basis that operators are rapidly introducing tiered pricing.

Voice calling is what pays for today's mobile infrastructure, and Skype's VoIP service threatens that. Skype likes to think of itself as an operator these days and wants to play nicely with its peers, so VoIP calling has thus far been restricted to Wi-Fi connections (though various bodges exist).

But if operators are charging by the byte, rather than a flat-rate unlimited connection, then Skype can be their friend by driving up consumption, and thus revenue.

Which is why the company has dropped plans to charge for 3G calling, a detail it slipped into the tail of its announcement about the latest iPhone version (which supports multitasking and has prettier graphics).

Mobile network operators have to move to some sort of volume-based pricing: data is already consuming the majority of network resources, but generating a tiny fraction of the revenue, and that can't last. Most operators already have tiered pricing of some sort, and it's reasonable to expect greater granulation over the next few years.

Also interesting will be the application of more complex pricing with bundles including application-specific data, no doubt with Skype a popular option. ®

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