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Skype inks deal to tack payments onto your mobile bill

VoIP operator becomes even more OTT

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Microsoft's VoIP operation Skype has signed a deal with MACH linking customers' Skype accounts and their mobile bills, allowing them to bypass credit card firms and PayPal when they cough up their payments.

The deal won't see Skype minutes on mobile bills, but it will enable customers to buy Skype minutes using the mobile or desktop Skype apps, and then have the cost added to their mobile-phone bill or deducted from their pre-paid account rather than having to pay with a credit card or PayPal account.

That's accomplished thanks to billing-specialist MACH, whose servers integrate with network operators around the world to create billable events – exactly which operators and where they're based the company isn't saying, only that deployment will start in October. For post-paid mobile that's relatively easy – the line item is just added to the bill – but with a pre-paid account the money has to be deduced in real time, which is a little more complicated.

The majority of Skype users don't pay of course; video and audio calls to other Skype users are free and Skype's peer-to-peer nature makes them cheap to provision. Skype's revenue, such as it is, comes from those who pay for the ability to call normal phones, and some embedded advertising, but making it easier to pay is always desirable.

Currently Skype accepts the usual range of credit cards and PayPal, as well as bank transfers which can take several days to process but are cheaper for the VoIP outfit to process.

Taking money from a mobile account will probably be a little cheaper than doing so from a credit card. MACH will still want a cut, but not a large one, but more importantly it will make it easier to pay for Skype even if you don't have a credit card or bank account.

If Skype is going to be better integrated into Windows Phone handsets, and challenge the role of mobile operators as providers of voice telephony, then billing integration was a necessary step, and one which is now possible assuming the operators permit it.

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