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Will Skype Soon Be On Verizon Wireless?

Verizon Wireless was for a long time the most conservative U.S. carrier. It did everything it could to keep even mildly disruptive applications and services off of its network and handsets. In the last year, though, it has claimed to be changing, saying it planned to make its network as open as possible. In October it said it would introduce two handsets running the Google-developed Android operating system, and with Google Voice installed. It subsequently announced a deal with Google to jointly develop and sell products, including such Android-based devices. Now it appears set to announce a deal with Skype.

The two companies will hold a joint press announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday February 16. The announcement will likely involve a deal to run Skype on Verizon mobile equipment and network. While such a deal would represent a significant advance for mobile VoIP, its impact will depend on the details. The main question will be which of two possible approaches to mobile Skype the expected deal involves.

The less radical approach would be to have users' Skype calls travel over the Verizon cellular voice network to a Skype gateway. From there they would travel over the Internet to another Skype user or to a conventional phone. This approach would be not much different from the services Skype Lite and iSkoot provide smart phone users of all types, and what Skype is offering with the Skype for iPhone app. Such an arrangement would still allow Verizon Wireless to charge for cellular voice minutes.

The more radical approach would have Skype calls traveling over the Verizon 3G cellular data network. That would allow Verizon to receive revenue only for transporting the IP data carrying the calls, not for the calls themselves. It would represent a major departure from the traditional cellular business model, and would mean Verizon Wireless was potentially sacrificing substantial voice revenues for relatively insubstantial data revenues.

But that won't necessarily happen right away. Like AT&T's, Verizon Wireless's data plans don't feature particularly VoIP-friendly pricing. Until they do, using Skype or any other VoIP service over the Verizon Wireless 3G network could be more expensive than traditional voice calling.


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