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Skype on the move: Does it finally add up?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 15:10 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

It's the revolution that has failed to happen. A couple of years ago it seemed that internet telephony - Skype and the like - were going to prove hugely disruptive to the mobile industry, ushering in an era of free calls and forcing mobile operators to change their business models.

Skype application on iphoneAt Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, manufacturers like Nokia talked excitedly about putting Skype on the latest handsets. Operators, perhaps fearing that their income stream from calls would dry up, seemed less excited.

As well as Skype, a number of services such as Fring, Jajah,and Truphone started offering apps on smartphones which, in theory, made it possible to make free calls with ease from around the world. Having tried a number of these apps myself, it's my impression that they have failed to deliver the ease of use that would make them a mass-market proposition and hence a real threat to operator revenues.

At home it has made little sense to make Voip calls, unless you are a pay-as-you-go customer - anyone who has a monthly contract will already have paid for lots of ordinary phone calls, so why use a more complex alternative? Abroad, it seems more sensible - until you realise that you can only make calls over a wireless network, which in many places are only available to paying customers.

But now Skype has come out with an update to its iPhone app which, at first sight, could prove a real breakthrough. The key aspect is that it now allows calls over a 3G network as well as wi-fi. Not only can iPhone owners make calls via 3G to other Skype users - but they can also call mobiles and landlines around the world, with the promise of very low rates.

What's more, the audio quality of the calls is massively improved with what Skype describes as CD-quality sound. As someone who is always on the look-out for new ways of doing live radio broadcasts, this immediately piqued my interest - and a Skype call to the BBC control room confirmed that the audio was up to broadcast standard.

So if it's so good, why have mobile operators like O2, Orange and Vodafone allowed this app onto their networks in the UK, with its potential to show their customers a cheaper way of calling? Russ Shaw, general manager for Skype Mobile in Europe, said they had had no complaints so far, and his theory is that the mobile industry is learning to live with his company:

"We've found with the operators that we've worked with that it helps drive smartphone take-up, and that the Skype customers tend to spend more on other services."

Russ told me I was wrong about the company's failure to date to make a real impact on the telecoms industry - he pointed out that that 12% of international calls now go via Skype, and although the vast majority of that traffic is on the desktop, mobile use is now really accelerating.

But there's one catch which could make consumers wary about mobile Voip calls - and operators all too happy to see them take off. I noticed after making a 3G call to another Skype user that two minutes online consumed over 1Mb of data. That's fine on my unlimited data plan in the UK - but would cost me £6 in the United States. Not such a great deal.

So you can see why mobile operators may resist pressure to cut international data charges. For now, internet mobile phone calls only pose a limited threat to their revenues because the sums don't quite add up for consumers - if the cost of data roaming plunges, they will become no-brainers.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "But now Skype has come out with an update to its iPhone app which, at first sight, could prove a real breakthrough. The key aspect is that it now allows calls over a 3G network as well as wi-fi."

    Why is this news? Every other smartphone platform has been able to do this for months if not years.

    Which still makes it a bit pointless. It's rarely cheaper for most people to use Skype than it is to use their carrier.

  • Comment number 2.

    Rory Cellan-Jones.

    "As well as Skype, a number of services such as Fring, Jajah,and Truphone started offering apps on smartphones which, in theory, made it possible to make free calls with ease from around the world. Having tried a number of these apps myself, it's my impression that they have failed to deliver the ease of use that would make them a mass-market proposition and hence a real threat to operator revenues." (my emphases)

    want a free lunch? you don't ask for much. LOL

  • Comment number 3.

    I have to admit I am a lover of the Voip principal, and indeed after using other alternatives find Skype to be the most robust in quality.

    The problem is however one of two things:

    1. Having people to call who use Skype
    2. Good devises to use to call them on

    You see it seems almost a cultural thing. I have friends in America who are fully up to speed on the advantages of Skype (I’ll use this as an example to make life easier here) it is the best known provider of Voip services.

    It means I can call them free, and when at a computer have high quality video calls too. I can conference in others and not pay a penny – how wonderful! It is the same in Asia, where many are making a switch from Yahoo! Messenger (which there seems very much more popular than Windows Live Messenger as seemingly preferred in the UK) to Skype.

    But alas my friends in the UK seem to need almost pushed into using something – Think about it, sure we can use a mobile and I own an iPhone and have 1200 minutes included in my tariff. But it makes sense if one is having a long chat, to do so for absolutely nothing. I know it is a hassle to be in front of a computer to do such, but then it is hands free.

    But it seems that to use yet another application, another username and the like is just a lot more effort and rather pay for a call (or use minutes) than talk for free. This brings me on to the second problem, equipment.

    Two years ago I spent over £100 on a combined Skype certified/Dect cordless phone. I was able then to have it route incoming calls either by my BT landline and it ring as normal, and me make outgoing calls as usual over the BT line – or choose to have them be only Skype in and outgoing. I got myself a cheap Skype subscription meaning free calls to all UK landline numbers – no hang up after an hour as with BT. I even got myself a new ‘020’ number which was a boon to give out to people as a ‘virtual second landline’.

    But the equipment is clumsy and almost as if it was an added afterthought. Skype will often sign out and you will have no idea this has happened until you go to make a call using the handset. The sound quality is not up to that of using a computer and the handset, whilst expensive is not as good as my other £30 Dect cordless home phone.

    The iPhone app is great. It sounds perfect, made a test call the other day over 3g and then WiFi and found no difference. With OS4 on iPhone due this summer, and multitasking coming, it will be good if one can leave Skype running in the background and truly have Voip on the go.

    However, it is only a free trial. I was informed by end of August, Skype will make you subscribe for a small amount (they say not a bit on how much this is going to be) to use the 3g part and that they warn ‘network operator charges may apply’ – I wonder if this is to do with iPhone OS4 – anyway- the point is if you try and go the computer way your tied to a computer, use a dedicated handset and it’s quality is not as good, use an app on a Smartphone and it has limitations. In short is it any wonder that Skype did not force change in the phone companies?

    Final note: It is rumoured that Skype are looking into placing advertisements INTO free Skype to Skype calls – can you imagine how annoying that would be, to be paused, hear an advert and then be returned to your call!

  • Comment number 4.

    Skype would never dare to put adverts in free Skype-to-Skype calls. They have no grounds to do so, they don't carry the traffic on a Skype-to-Skype call, they just point each client in the right direction.

    3G Skype would've been fantastic, but then they had to go and blow it by charging extra for the privilege on top. Oh well, I'll just have to be content with Skype in wi-fi areas.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with Rory on VoIP being better for the international market. With the airtime I get on an average mobile contract I don't need it for UK calls. However I do have friends and family overseas and it really halps me keep costs down when chatting to them.

    I'm a bit irritated by the Skype mobile trial period on the iPhone because I think this is a revenue generator for either Apple or the Networks, not Skype, and the hidden charge irks me.

    Finally a comment on data. If Skype is sucking up data at the rate that Rory suggests it's going to put even more strain on overloaded 3G networks (a certain blue network springs to mind) so this needs to be managed.

  • Comment number 6.

    You are aware that free Skype calls have been available and fully supported on the 3 network for months now?

  • Comment number 7.

    This is a great story. Mobile providers will be happy for users to use Skype as they can then hit their customers with a data fee.

    Truth be told if Mobile operators would cut their charges the need for Skype would disappear. However, as many savvy customer understand the data fee most will try and use Skype.

    The real deal is when the base software of the smart phones automatically logs to the wifi network and then activates skype for free calls. Then the mobile operators will really have to up their game.

  • Comment number 8.

    Skype is fully integrated into the Nokia N900 out of the box. The recently released PR1.2 introduced video calls, which works both through wifi and 3G.

  • Comment number 9.

    I live in an area with very poor 2.5G mobile network coverage. I am a PAYG customer as I can't use my phone for voice, let alone data.

    However, I don't want to be excluded from the benefits of smartphones, nor do I particularly want to pay twice for broadband connectivity in my home (e.g. via femtocells), so WiFi would be my preferred option for mobile broadband access for both the laptop and phone.

    My recent experience is that skype is not yet widely available on smartphones that are affordable (sub £150). True, an unlocked iPhone or similar high-end device at around £400-600 supports VoIP applications; the cost works out at about £250-300 a year on a 24-month contract. But can I really justify paying more for a phone than for a laptop when I can't even use it to make a phone call, let alone access the Internet and download apps?

    Could it possibly be that operators (except 3) are actually keeping very quiet about mobile VoIP because they are terrified of the disruptive potential of VoIP to their revenue streams and network architectures?

    Imagine if skype (or one of the others) started developing mobile VoIP for more affordable smartphones, and imagine if everyone who bought an affordable smartphone that supported WiFi and VoIP started to make calls over their home or office WLAN...

  • Comment number 10.

    I've used Skype on my iPhone since it came out but mainly for when I'm travelling abroad for example the US. I'll find a coffee shop with free wifi and then Skype home. Skype in also gives me a US based phone number I can access. I'm not sure I'd use Skype over 3G though.

  • Comment number 11.

    I use Skype to go everyday to call Thailand mobile. I call a UK number which is free on my mobile tariff, and i pay for Skype world, £70 a year, and I never pay a penny for all the thai calls over this over the year. It is great.

    I have also got Fring installed on my phone, and for a long time have been able to use Skype over 3g to make a call, but granted.. the quality was not all that on the Symbian

  • Comment number 12.

    On the 3 network, we have been able to make free skype to skype calls for years (when in UK). What I do though is use Fring to call through Skype which lets me do calls through skype to normal phones (using my data plan which is only £5 a month). On my Nokia 5800 (and LG phone before that) it runs over 3G or Wifi, and uses the phone's address book, so no hassles.

    Within Fing I have the option to call using Skype, MSN, a normal mobile callor to use another provider and I can also instant message through MSN messenger / Google Talk / etc.

    I was recently away on business in the states, and the office I was in had a wifi network. I could call and receive calls from the UK without roaming charges with the same handset, just as if I was in UK using my Skype account. Quality was often better than using a land line!

    The question is - why the fuss with the IPhone - as others have said - every other handset beyond the most basic have been able to do this for years, essentially for free - if you don't want the extra charges - don't get a IPhone!

    AuntieSueCornwall said "skype is not yet widely available on smartphones that are affordable" - check out Fring - it has been available for most Symbian based phones since 2007 - so most Nokias, BenQs, many Sony Ericssons, some Samsungs, etc. and it will let you use Skype.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have this capability on my Nokia now (I use Nimbuzz - It hasn't had a mention yet and works well). It works very well over Wi-Fi. I haven't dared try it over 3G because Vodafone (at least in Spain anyway) expressly forbid the use of VoIP using 3G.

    I would also love the prices of data use to reduce. Currently Vodafone Spain is 8 times more expensive than Vodafone UK (per megabyte) and neither is prepared to justify the reason.

  • Comment number 14.

    The latest iPhone/iTouch update states that Skype-Skype calls over 3G are only free to the end of 2010. After that a monthly 'fee' is to be paid to Skype in addition to your mobile provider. If this applies to the UK will '3' provide a free tarriff to those who just use skype? I do not think it worth while to pay both '3' and Skype.

  • Comment number 15.

    You really must free yourself from the belief that the iphone is important in terms of technology development. Apple follow where others lead, they are good at monetising ideas by using the tried and tested techniques of marketing and branding.

    It speaks volumes that you can write this article without even the slightest nod to the Nokia N900. Shhh don't tell anyone but they have Skype video on 3G and wi-fi out of the box. It works too!

  • Comment number 16.

    I don't suppose the mobile operators will mind if you use Skype over their data service. You are still paying them for using their network. And even better they can squeeze your data rate when they need to. Like, for example, when someone uses their phone to make a phone call.

    But there is a bigger problem with using 3g. It does not really work. Just now I am using a 3g dongle to connect to the net. I am in a 3g coverage area, but my dongle informs me that there is only a 2g network available.

    This is the story you should be covering. And not rehashing press releases that mention products from Apple.


  • Comment number 17.

    I had been able to use Skype over WiFi on my windows mobile for years! It's now 'big' news that the Skype iPhone app is able to work on Wifi. Wow!

    As for general voip on 3G or even GPRS, these mobile data services were not really intended to carry real-time traffic such as voice. They're "best effort" data networks, and if you throw in the flaky nature of mobile coverage just about anywhere, it's guaranteed that voip will be a challenge. All mobile wireless technologies upto 3G are basically voice-centric technologies, which have some data capabilities that have been steadily improving as the technology evolved. 4G changes all that as it is an all-IP based technology which is designed to carry both voice and data nicely over IP.

    So, until then, you are unlikely to get Skype or any other voip applications working nicely and ubiquitously on 3G networks. If you must use Skype on a mobile phone, you're better off on WiFi, at least for now.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've rather liked the thought of Skype for a couple of years now. But whichever way I turn I hit problems.

    Firstly most companies that offer "unlimited internet" actually have a limit which is surprisingly low. Last I heard (12 months or so ago admittedly) O2's "unlimited" data was actually capped at 200MB. Vodafone's was a more generous 500MB but Skype was charged at £2.50/MB. T-Mobile was 1GB, 3GB or 10GB for £7.50, £12.50 or £22.50 but only the highest package permitted Skype at all. If I'm going to be paying a contract and an additional £22.50 for internet I need to make a huge number of calls to make it worthwhile.

    That leaves Orange and 3. For my own reasons (which aren't relevant here) I will never do business with Orange again, and 3 said I'd have to choose one of their phones when I actually want to keep my existing phone.

    So VOIP is great in fixed locations but the costs associated still seem to prevent it happening on the move. It's a shame - a pay-as-you-go customer might spend something on the internet to use Skype while refusing to pay the rather exorbitant charges for international calls.

  • Comment number 19.

    Here in Thailand all the telephone companies (mobile and land line) offer a VOIP international dial at a cheaper rate. They state the voice quality is less however it works and is a fraction of normal dial rates.Instead of dialing 001 (full rate) one dials 006, 007 or 008 depending on the carrier. Thus the phone companies make money rather than a 3rd party.

  • Comment number 20.

    I use a nokia E71 on three network.
    It's has skype built in to there phone firmware. I use daily my friends and family call me on my mobile via skype all the time. it's brilliant

  • Comment number 21.

    If you've already got a Skype Pro subscription which itself is only a couple of pounds per month then you get a "Skype To Go" number. Basically the Skype To Go number is a local telephone number which gives you access to your Skype account allowing you to make calls using your Skype credit.

    As the call into the Skype system is a regular phone call it's not affected by patchy 3G coverage.

    Unless Skype roll the mobile subscription into Skype Pro at no extra charge, I won't be paying for an additional subscription I don't really need.

  • Comment number 22.

    Three have had a dedicated Skype over 3G mobile phone handset for ages. Probably doesn't deserve a mention as its not related to an Apple product.

  • Comment number 23.

    Mobile phone internet connections are quite often actually hopeless and simply don't work. Many is the time I get colleagues ringing me up in the office telling me that their mobile can't get an internet connection in central London and asking me to look up an address on the internet or some such request. So how can Skype expect anyone to actually rely on using their service over the mobile phone network?

    All mobile phone network technology simply has too little bandwidth to provide a sufficiently reliable service - and will always be limited by this 'feature' of their technology. There is no 'upgrade' that will make it work!

  • Comment number 24.

    It appears that Skype-to-Skype calls on iPhone over 3G will not be free, after all.

    So if you're abroad, you will have your data bill to worry about as well as Skype credit. As for calling abroad, I also think Skype To Go is a better option in terms of voice quality, as it makes use of the mobile voice service from your handset (irrespective of whether 2G or 3G), as opposed to the very patchy data service used to carry voip.

    Once the novelty runs out it remains to be seen how many people will eventually be using voip on 3G, because the service quality is incomparable to standard voice on mobile networks, in the latter's favour. My guess is only those who will really, really have to, like those stuck abroad with no cheaper/better alternatives.

  • Comment number 25.

    No idea what Skype on a mobile is like, but one thing that you don't seem to have considered is customer service.

    I used to use Skype at work for phone calls from my desk, but eventually had to abandon it, despite the very attractive pricing, because the customer service was practically non-existent. If you ran into any kind of problem at all, it was very unlikely to be solved without having to wait weeks and make several attempts at contacting Skype.

    Until Skype sort out that side of their business, I can't see them being too much of a threat to the mobile operators. Yes, I know that most mobile operators have dreadful customer service, but it's really not in the same league of awfulness as Skype.

  • Comment number 26.

    About a year ago the CEO of Verizon made a public statement that he would never embrace Skype operating across his wireless network. And then a year later they announced a partnership with Skype to enable access to the application over the wireless network. So why is that? The view of over-the-top services and content is shifting. The biggest overarching change in the next 12 months will be mobile operators starting to treat over the top content and applications as an opportunity – no longer as a threat.

    We are seeing a shift in strategy that will manifest itself in the deployment of technologies and business models that embrace over-the-top. The iPad is perhaps the best example of that as it provides an over-the-top device, contents and services, which is motivating operators worldwide to rethink their business models and embrace Apple as a partner. And I think we are going to see a lot more of that in the next 12 months.

    Mike Manzo, CMO of Openet

  • Comment number 27.

    Skype is a key feature keeping me on the 3 network, which as we know is a little patchy in terms of line quality. I think 3 is the only network that understands the role of mobile operators is to be "dumb pipes". Simply provide the service at cost. The large operators see themselves as the AOL of the mobile world and we know what happened there.

  • Comment number 28.

    #26 @Mike manzo

    "The biggest overarching change in the next 12 months will be mobile operators starting to treat over the top content and applications as an opportunity..."

    That is probably why AT&T has announced it is doing away with "all-you-can-eat" data deals as reported by Telecoms.com They want a larger piece of the pie as data usage on mobiles explodes. After all, their network was reported to have been creaking under the weight of iPhone application data usage. So, someone's gonna have to pay for the network upgrades and all, namely the consumer.

    So if the trend catches on that operators will embrace over the top services while capping data usage, then consumers will have to make some interesting choices about certain apps like Skype, in my opinion.

  • Comment number 29.

    Why are all posts about mobile phones iPhone related? There are other manufacturers around too, that have been able to use Skype over 3G networks for years. Just because it's now on a handset that a relatively small number of consumers have doesn't make it news.

  • Comment number 30.

    6 pounds?! Here in NZ, even on Vodafone (well known for extorting kiwi customers via the Telecom-Vodafone duopoly) you get 10MB for $1 NZD, which is about 45p.
    And in a country where broadband plans come with data limits, which after 18 months I'm still getting used to.

  • Comment number 31.

    Skype is all very well but there are alternatives out there. Skype is not true VoIP and in the home phone scenario you need a special phone to use it. I use Skype but I also use another provider known as Sipgate (there are others) and it works perfectly on a normal DECT phone directly connected to my router. The beauty of it is that this "home" phone number is reachable everywhere at the same time so long as I have connection WiFi or otherwise. It's true VoIP and therefore it's a completely open standard for multiple platforms - unlike Skype.

  • Comment number 32.

    I Love Skype, I currently live in Germany and my family is at home in the UK. Skype is a great way to keep in touch for free and I can use my web so my family can see me and I can see them.

    Also I have skype on my iPhone but until OS4 comes out that allows multi tasking there isnt much point in trying to use it.

    Also for some phone companies being scared about look to Abu Dhabi, They have blocked it on there phone networks, The reason being that Skype didnt invest in the network infrastructure that it runs on.
    The same could be said for posibily every website too but they dont block them?

  • Comment number 33.

    I use Skype regularly on the desktop. It's great. On my mobile (a Nokia 5800), it's equally great, except that it flattens the battery in under a day. Normally, the phone will last nearly a week, but as soon as you use any of these "always on" services, the load of maintaining a permanent network connection hits battery life hard. Not to mention the constant radiation bombards your "pocket area" with! This is not a bad reflection on Skype; it's the same with Windows Messenger.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have used Skype on my mobile for nearly a year now. It is the best thing for calling 0800 numbers. O2 charge for call in 0800 numbers, Skype does not. To call a 0800 number from your mobile for free use Skype.

  • Comment number 35.

    "That's fine on my unlimited data plan in the UK - but would cost me £6 in the United States"

    Another example to support arguments in favour of being given price information at the point of use of telecommunication services.

    We have too many example of people racking up huge bills in ignorance. This applies to landlines, too, with their proliferation of charge rates varying by time of day, distance, premium rate lines, shared revenue lines and total ripoffs like PatientLine (I have no personal experience of its successor, Hospedia, but a quick Google suggests there has been no improvement)

  • Comment number 36.

    Sorry, about this Rory, but your whole post is a bit of a no-brainer.

    As Mark has said, Skype for mobiles has been around for some time. For instance Nokia aren't just getting into it, they already have it, even over 3G. The latest Maemo firmware for the N900 even allowed video calls.

    Also, as has already been said, the costs were pretty obvious from the start. There has to be some connection and when abroad any connection tends to be expensive, even wifi. This means that for voice calls, the costs are probably fairly even (Skype may be cheap, but mobile internet isn't, not even for locals (expect contracts)). Video calling on the other hand may be different, although even though video calls are expensive, Skype would need to use more mobile internet, so could even be more expensive.

    The above, I would think are fairly obvious.

  • Comment number 37.

    About time that the EU told the lobbiests where to go to drive down the cost of EU citizens... not just to be able to use data at a reasonable cost, but also to drive down call costs.

  • Comment number 38.

    "But now Skype has come out with an update to its iPhone app which, at first sight, could prove a real breakthrough. The key aspect is that it now allows calls over a 3G network as well as wi-fi."

    Now I understand why so many people complain that Apple gets too much free 'advertising' here. This isn't news.

    I've been using Skype via 3G on my Nokia phone for so long, I can't even remember when I started using it!

  • Comment number 39.

    It's a shame that Rory hasn't had time to come back and address the issues regarding Skype via 3G on other device manufacturers.

    Not a surprise though.

  • Comment number 40.

    ??? Skype has been available on Android for Wifi and 3G for some time. Of course that does not get mentioned, in the Apple loving BBC....

    Look at how much disproportionate iFad coverage it's getting compared to other previous slate/tablet PCs...

  • Comment number 41.

    I love the fact people are failing to mention google voice in all of this,
    Although it is a mix of voice, and data it is a main player for people in the U.S. Google voice, which provides an all encompassing phone number, and allows users in the US and canada to make free calls nationally.
    The service allows call forwarding, and works just like google mail service, there are features like voicemail, call screening, free sms, conference calling, and voice to text transcription of voicemail. This makes it a great contender in the voip world, now if we can only get this outside the U.S. without using hacks and workarounds.

  • Comment number 42.

    Why is it that when something gets announced for the iPhone - it's presented as a new concept? I've been doing this for a while now for free on the 3 network with a Nokia running crummy old S60 ... mainly for Phone -> Laptop calls and visa versa. The quality has always been excellent.

  • Comment number 43.

    Do they have plan to launch Skype on Android platform? Now I have installed Skype Beta version in HTC Hero phone, but only Skype IM is free, and andy incoming or outgoing calls (included:Skype to Skype call) will be charged. But it is free in any platforms. Such as video news applications, Windows, Linux, PSP...etc.

  • Comment number 44.

    Using Skype over 3G sorts of defeats the purpose of free calling if you have to pay for the data and if you're already paying for free minutes as part of a network tariff.

    I think VoIP to VoIP calling only makes sense for international calling and there are a few apps you can install on your mobile such as Skype, Fring and MO-Call.

  • Comment number 45.

    I joined Skype to Go for 3 months prior to going on holiday to San Francisco, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. I obtained local numbers for all the destinations that I was to be visiting and used them on my Virgin Mobile phone throughout the 8 weeks that I was away, expecting to only pay local charges for linking to the Skype numbers. I was astounded on returning home to receive mobile bills of around £400 for the calls made whilst away. Virgin tell me that all calls were charged at roaming rate of 75p per minute for the entire length of each one. Skype tell me that I should have had a local phone card for each destination that I visited to enable me to make the calls for free. I do not consider that their advertising makes this at all clear. Has anyone else had similar experiences?

  • Comment number 46.

    Why would anyone want to use VOIP when the battle for cheap calls in the UK is won. If you buy a smartphone in Britain you get hundreds of minutes and thousands of texts. For most people more minutes and texts than they ever use on a personal plan.

    On the other hand most operators data cap you so your data plan is not like your home broadband. You can read a few emails, browse some web pages but serious mobile use of data requires you be near wifi. Calling a mobile over wifi is more expensive than using your plan so why use voip? In the UK there is almost no reason to ever make a voip call with operators restricting data and throwing out loads of free minutes. Of course they can give away minutes because mobile calls are grossly overpriced.

    So really the ideal place for a voip call is overseas. Perversely this is the most expensive place to use data. Unless you are completely mad you switch off all data when you leave the country. If you find a free wifi point then voip becomes a sensible option. You pay a tiny amount to call a landline and a LOT more to call mobile but far less than a regular call. So if you are overseas and have free wifi then voip makes sense.

    However which voip - Skype requires you both be on Skype to get absolutely free calls, Jajah means you have to log on a web browser, then there are the other providers. You cant call between providers for free.

    Of course the operators aren't worried. Plan A was to keep voip off their networks. Plan B is to arrange tarrifs so calling over data has no advantage than using your normal provider. Moreover with the extra complexity of downloading and configuring applications on your smartphone I am astonished that the market for voip is so high.

    Skype over 3g is incredibly dangerous to the general user. If they speak to their Skype mate for "free" while they are on holiday in Spain the data bill could be a very nasty surprise.

  • Comment number 47.

    Mobile phone internet connections are quite often actually hopeless and simply don't work. Many is the time I get colleagues ringing me up in the office telling me that their mobile can't get an internet connection in central London and asking me to look up an address on the internet or some such request. So how can Skype expect anyone to actually rely on using their service over the mobile phone network?All mobile phone network technology simply has too little bandwidth to provide a sufficiently reliable service - and will always be limited by this 'feature' of their technology. There is no 'upgrade' that will make it work.

  • Comment number 48.

    You guys hit the nail on the head in this article. I remember when Skype was coming onto the tech scene. I was at South by Southwest, down in Austin, TX that year and it was all the buzz. First people we're blown away by the ip telephony technology, in general. Most of us had heard of it, read some blogs concerning it, but then we were able to see it in use!

    Skype, at this point, probably did have the wireless conglomerates shaking in their billion dollar boots, however, you guys called it...to get their phones, their customers have to sign a contract. That contract is for minute usage, and if they're already paying for "normal" more "reliable" cellular usage, why bother with Viop technology?

  • Comment number 49.

    I am not sure if anyone is aweare of this, but Apple users have to pay to use the group video call feature on Mac OSX. (This might be due to Facetime).

  • Comment number 50.

    Thanks for sharing this useful information , But i have very simple question if any one can answer me i will be thanks ... I have mobile n97 can i use skype on this phone and how to install it ? reply me if you know.

  • Comment number 51.

    Looks like it’s a great combo of “Skype” & “iPhone” to generate this great hype in the last two days. I think it will be really “game changing” when it would be allowed to make calls over (of course I’m not talking about the capability on jail-broken iPhone) (3G) cellular network. Well, that could spell “death of mobile voice plan” when one only need a data plan (probably by then unlimited data plans (or even a metered approach and much affordable) for all his communication needs. Do we foresee a scenario where the mobile operator ends up just being a pipe provider? Will that ever happen? Well, technically it’s very much possible today itself but the question is whether the “key stakeholders” ever allow so called outsiders to come and whip away their long-standing business model where they have been long squeezing the consumers for their own benefit?

 

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