AT&T might be hesitant to allow Skype calls over 3G on the iPhone, but Verizon Wireless is making a statement about its network — today, the carrier announced Skype voice support over 3G on various handsets. The BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, 8830 World Edition and Tour 9630 smartphones are all supported starting next month. Even the recently popular Android phones like the Droid, Droid Eris and newly announced Devour will gain mobile Skype capabilities on Verizon’s EVDO network.
Unfortunately, the current Skype client for Android is really a Skype Lite application that’s better suited for Skype chatting than for everyday calls as far as I know. I can’t even find it in the Android Market on my Nexus One for some reason, which is a shame since I use Skype all the time. Perhaps, there are new clients on the way?
Regardless of potential client limitations, what can you do with Skype on Verizon’s network over 3G?
- Make and receive unlimited free Skype-to-Skype voice calls to anyone on Skype around the globe
- Call international phone numbers at Skype’s low rates
- Send and receive instant messages to other Skype users
- See your friends’ online status
On the Skype Mobile product page, this tidbit jumped out at me: “Skype usage won’t be charged against customers’ monthly Verizon Wireless data plans or minute allowances.” Last I checked, the smartphone data service on Verizon Wireless phones was unlimited, but this development is good news for folks with limited amounts of voice minutes. With solid 3G coverage and friends on Skype, you could save your voice minutes for non-Skype calls as needed.
This is the first time I’ve seen a major partnership between Skype and U.S. carrier — I hope it’s the not the last. I realize that the carriers have to insure against applications that could affect the network capabilities, but it’s time to break free of the challenges holding back the mobile web.
I’m not exactly surprised that it is Verizon making this deal. It offers the largest geographical 3G coverage area in the U.S. and it is also poised to be the first U.S. carrier to begin transitioning over to LTE. On the LTE network, voice should simply be just another form of data, so Verizon is getting a head start now to see how that’s going to shake out as voice revenues continue to decline.
Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):