Why is there no Skype Mobile?

30 Comments

With all the hoopla around mobile VoIP applications, the mainstream media is beginning to ask the question: where is Skype? Good question actually, one we have been asking for sometime now. Business Week has picked up a report in a finnish newspaper, where (thankfully) Skype Chief Executive Officer Niklas Zennstrom was brutally honest in his answers about the problems his company is having.

“When we begun developing the mobile phone version we didn’t realize the number of technical obstacles. It is challenging and is taking much longer than expected,”

Let me breakdown these challenges:


1. Skype needs a lot of CPU cycles (see your computer’s process monitor) and mobile phone CPUs, even the best of them are not good enough. Skype is trying its best to bring down the CPU cycle requirements, but the performance-requirements are not have a Zen moment as yet.

2. Skype needs bandwidth – a lot of it, and running it a pure peer-to-peer client is just not possible on many of today’s networks. As 3G becomes prevalent, this issue just might get resolved.

3. Skype would suck the mobile phone batteries dry within hours because the client is always doing something. Not sure, how this issue gets resolved.

More than that, I think one think Niklas doesn’t admit to is that internal philosophies of Skype are coming in the way of their mobile efforts. Skype has always wanted to offload all the heavy lifting to the client, and basically stay clear of spending on the infrastructure. Right now, they can roll out a solution similar to say iSkoot (which essentially runs your Skype instance on a virtual machine on a server and acts like your desktop.)

Do you really want Mobile Skype?

30 Comments

Carl Clopton

I use Skype in / Skype out for my business and have lots of phone in numbers for various parts of the world that all ring on my laptops. This is great but I would alos like to use my Dell Axim x51v on WM 5 with the Enfora GSM/GPRS Compact Flash Card, does anyone know if this will work with Skype? Skype says it must be 3G. I don’t think the Enfora GSM/GPRS Compact Flash Card will support 3G, but could it work with a data sim card inside? I know that I will have to use the extra large batteries and it will use them up fast, that I am OK with, these batteries are cheap. Any thoughts on this? thanks for your time :)

Valto

Just last week we did a quick test of various solutions for using Skype or other VoIP solutions from mobile phone to save in our international calls done while driving, etc.

We selected Jajah and Mobivox as our choices in addition to using just Skype.

I wrote the whole selection process to my blog at: http://4startups.blogspot.com/

Alexander Straub

(( truphone )) I think is a good solution for Skype like VoIP experience as best as it can get modeling the existing phone behaviour. I have tried it since several months on my Nokia E60 and it is amazing. My MNO bill has dropped by 70%.

Mohammed Jubaer Arif

I am new to VoIP and got a question here:

When you say
“running it a pure peer-to-peer client is just not possible on many of today’s networks”
I am not getting what are the problems Skype is going to face with current network and how do 3G solves them?

With care
Arif.

Sebhelyesfarku

“To use Skype on yoru mobile means you have to be logged in to your 3g connection so you can’t get impromptu calls.”

Ted Avery you are clueless. On UTMS you can have data connection and voice call simultaneously.

Alas4493

What people forget is there is no free lunch. Any web feature is either something you pay for (or somebody pays for) in terms of fees, or you have advertising. I suppose I could add Bubble 2.0 ‘products’ that are funded in essence by the gamble that Yahoo/Google/Microsoft will buy the company.

So… Skype has no fees for on-net calling, and it has no servers handling call switching etc. Instead it uses processing from the callers’ PCs. It still had developers and reg servers to pay for. So SkypeOut has fees because it costs real money to terminate calls onto PSTNs and wireless networks. And maybe that covered the other costs, because there were no other sources of revenue.

While Skype has no infrastructure costs this is not the case for SIP. SIP needs relatively heavyweight servers to perform the caller lookup, handshaking, and connectivity (though not to carry traffic). So on-net calls via SIP cannot be entirely free, whereas the same calls on Skype can be. At least until the P2PSIP recommendations have been made real – then at that point in the future SIP looks like Skype and can have costs like Skype.

Vincent Oberle

About all this mobile devices becoming supernodes: Skype phones will obviously not become supernodes. There are enough PC to play the role of supernodes, would make no sense.

BTW supernodes are not the bandwith consumer that everybody talks about (but that’s another subject).

NB: I’m an engineer at Skype

Om Malik

casey

that is my bad. i was writing this while waiting to change flights. so overlooked a few things. errors are regretted and will try harder next time around.

Alas4493

To Niels’s point: Skype (or an equivalent bypass technology) became popular over fixed wireline when it was much cheaper, simple to use, and good enough quality. The same will apply to wireless: the combination of lower cost, simplicity, and reasonable quality will be the catalyst for Skype or a competitive VoIP bypass provider to become popular.

Om’s question was if Skype had architectural challenges that would impede those catalysts. The answer is probably yes – in that Skype on mobile phones would need to leech off the processing power of desktop PCs.

Casey

I love this site and read it religiously, but where is the proof-reading? I found at least two grammar errors while reading this article alone.

Niels Gammelgard

Why would anyone really care about mobile Skype, more than nerds. And nerds don’t speak anyway, or…?

I want my phone to work. Period. Also, money is not really the option anymore. I have an all I can eat subscription anyway (including broadband and VOIP) for my private phone and my company mobile has free internal calls.

//Niels

rajAT

Spokn (www.spokn.com) a Hyderabad, India based company has developed skype for mobile phone.

Francisco

Mobile Skype is already deployed in Sony Mylo.
However this is not a CDMA/GSM phone. It is rather a PDA with Skype capabilty.

No good. You need Mylo AND your normal cell phone.

This is why Mylo will fade.

Ravish

I am in India and I oftenly make calls to my friends & relatives in US & Canada. It costs me around $0.16 per minute to make international calls and I have to pay a huge security deposit to my cellular company to activate my International Calling.

On the other hand… I use fring on my cell phone with a $12 per month unlimited GPRS data plan. This allows me to make free calls to other fring, Gtalk or Skype users and $0.021 per minute for Skypeout calls to landline or cell phones.

The VOIP option is much more feasible & affordable to me. If VOIP Buster could launch a mobile application, I would be able to make free calls to Landlines & Cell phones as well.

Alas4493

Can Skype run on cell phones? The answer is yes, if the phone has 400MHz cpu, runs Windows Mobile 5, and it’s on a real 3G network, or WiFi (UMA should be ok). On GPRS with 5 data slots typically only one is for upload 13.4kbps, which is really too low for even the iLBC codec that Skype uses. EDGE takes it up to a shade under 60kbps for upload. But it’s not optimized: iLBC is packet-based whereas cellphones use bit-error correcting transports.

Is it legal? Probably not – Cingular and Verizon both have terms of service prohibiting VoIP traffic.

QoS – yeah well you might need that between you and the cell tower if you were doing something gnarly in terms of bandwidth at the same time as placing a Skype call. But after the tower, it’s not needed. Not diving into QoS debates here but QoS assists to ration scarce bandwidth, once it’s not scarce the impact of QoS is small.

If you do the math for a $49.99 US cellphone data plan and calculate it for 1350 or 6000 minutes of use it works out that this is cheaper than the equivalent cellphone voice plan. Add in International calls and the savings are 50% or more, even assuming Skypeout costs to terminate to the PSTN.

Is Skypeout cheaper than Mobile night-time or in-Carrier or in-family minutes which are ‘free’? No, but that’s before you add in the base rate of the voice plan that got you those ‘free’ minutes. Add in all the costs and Skype (which incidentally is not at all the cheapest VoIP bypass service) is cheaper.

rukna

Thats what the technology is for. solve the problems… have faith in a few years everybody will be using a skype phone

Jason

I think one thing people are forgetting is the sheer latency of today’s mobile networks not to mention the lack of QoS. Skype has surpassed many technilogical hurdles in the way they buffer, but I would think 250+ millisecond round trip times are pretty prohibitive for voice.

Ted Avery

Skype on a mobile? Why?

Mobile to mobile is $5 a month.

You can get 1000 minutes for $40

Free nights and weekends starting at 7pm for $5

For the times when I’m dealing with my offshore clients and outsourced employees (when we aren’t texting instead of talking) I have my Skype account forwarded to my cell (free in the US & Canada) so everyone can call me easily.

To use Skype on yoru mobile means you have to be logged in to your 3g connection so you can’t get impromptu calls. You have to be connected. That’s a battery drain.

C’mon people, some things belong on a computer only. Jah Jah(Sp) and the other services make more sense than Skype for the mobile.

I think a plain old fashioned calling card is less hassle.

Ravish

I covered a mobile application called fring on my blog few days back. fring is basically an integrated mobile client for Skype & GTalk which uses Skype API. It works on GPRS & 3G network and does not require to connect to your computer or Wi-Fi network. The application also allows to make calls between other fring users and SkypeOut as well. I tried it on my GPRS/EDGE and it worke fine. I am sure it will work better with 3G.

Jesse Kopelman

Actually, I’d be happy with a Windows Mobile client that just supported instant messaging. The full-featured client they have now kills the battery of my XV6700 in about 20 minutes of use over WiFi. I am using Skype as my only presence client and it would be cool to keep that functionality + instant messaging.

Brian McConnell

Plus, dual mode wifi/cellular service, such as that which T-Mobile is rolling out, render Skype Mobile obsolete when customers will be able to walk out of a store with a phone that’s pre-configured and ready to use.

Skype over 3G is a non-starter because of all of the data pricing issues mentioned previously.

anonymous42

IMHO, Skype mobile will have some trouble. Carriers have been smart with Data plans. Lets look at the numbers. 28kbps voice requires about 210KB of data transfer per minute. This is assuming skype runs in non-supernode mode. Most data services in US cost about $2.00 per 1MB. if you do the math, skype call will cost you $0.40 per minute. But, voice costs about $0.05 per minute. So, unless data plans become very cheap skype will have tough time.

For Skype to be succesful, it requires an all-you-can-eat data service at very low cost AND a voice carrier who charges exorbitant prices for voice calls. Both are not true in mobile business.

This is in US. Not sure about Europe though. One of the big reasons for Skype’s success in Europe and Asia was sky high voice call rates. Itseems like Mobile voice call rates are quite high too in Europe. Dont know if that’ll make a difference.

worldwildweb

To the question “Do you really want Mobile Skype?”

There is one device called mylo(sony) you can use it to connect Fon’s(www.fon.com) hot spot using skype.

vinod

the other part of it —

cellular voice is ridiculously optimized… for ex., a voice call over CDMA is about 4K / sec in bandwidth consumed.

Just try running Skype on a dialup.

Yuvamani

The technical challenges could easily be solved, If skype forced to run the mobile clients in non super node for now. Anyway there is no point of a mobile skype being a supernode because it does not have a public ip address (also processor and bandwidth limitations)

No I think the problem with mobile phone market is fragmentation and how difficult it is to develop applications for them. Remember Skype had already attacked Windows mobile very early because it is easy to develop rich applications for it. Hoever the same cannot be said for other platforms. I dont think the performance of j2me cuts it for something like skype.

rick

Where are they going to run it when they get it? Won’t it be on similar smartphones that have the capability today? Won’t Skype have to use Wifi or run on the back of a cellular data network, which is questionably illegal.

Carriers won’t support a mobile phone with Skype that will eat their minutes, unless they have something to gain. Carriers would be better to partner with a YAMG who can kick in some advertising dollars. Skype has nothing to offer carriers except extra demand for their data services.

Ok, here we go again. Isn’t this similar to the net neutrality issue.

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