WE’RE NOT SURE if hell just froze over or not, but Verizon Wireless has announced that it has teamed up with Skype to deliver unlimited free Skype-to-Skype calls for its customers. There’s a catch of course, although it’s a rather small one.
Verizon might not have the best of reputations as a cellular operator, but this might just convince enough people to change network provider. The Skype calling won’t kick off until next month, although no exact date was given. The catch is that you need one of only nine supported devices, although this is likely to grow over time. For now the BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, 8830 World Edition, Tour 9630, DROID by Motorola, DROID ERIS by HTC and Motorola DEVOUR are supported.
Verizon and Skype will be providing a custom Skype mobile application for the handsets listed above that will not only allow for Skype-to-Skype calls, but it will also let you make Skype Out calls and use the Skype IM service. You do of course also need a 3G data contract to make the Skype service work, although Verizon hasn’t specified if there’s a minimum subscription package requirement. Still, most people should be able to save a fair bit of money off their monthly cell phone bill this way, as long as the Skype service delivers good enough call quality.
This is a move in the right direction and it’s a move that 3 in the UK did some months ago and it has been hugely popular there. Although 3 seems to offer a slightly more generous package, since it doesn’t require a 3G data package and you can also use Skype on pre-paid contract, even without any credit loaded. 3 also offers a wide range of compatible handsets, although to be fair, 3 has offered Skype calls on its network since 2006 so it’s had a fair bit more time to provide compatible handsets.
Hopefully more mobile operators will see the wisdom in actually being dumb pipes rather than trying to offer customized handsets with features and services that no one really wants. However, this is unlikely to happen and most of us will have to continue to pay through our noses for the services that we have become way too reliant on. If nothing else, let’s at least hope that Verizon has made sure that it has the capacity in its 3G network to cope with the extra bandwidth demand from all the Skype calls that will hopefully take place in the near future.S|A
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