Skype plots dual-mode phones by year’s end

Alistair Shrimpton, Skype’s UK Manager, has revealed they will probably be launching dual mode GSM/WiFi handsets by Q4 2006.

Shrimpton went on to confirm that the VoIP market leaders were currently in talks with the likes of Motorola and Nokia, and also with software companies such as Symbian.
The new WiFi only handsets announced on Thursday were admitted to be “quite an expensive product” and “aimed at the early adopter”.
In the same way as the WiFi only handsets, the dual-mode phones would allow a user to make telephone calls over Skype when they are connected to a wireless network. Unlike the WiFi only handsets, they will also be able to make calls via existing mobile networks when not in a hotspot.
Comparing existing WiFi enabled phones using a Skype software client and specific Skype integrated phones, Shrimpton stated that the latter would “undoubtedly give a more seamless user experience”.
It’s yet to be decided whether the GSM/WiFi handsets will be released SIM-free or via service providers. The phones “could work with a SIM-free option but could also work with an operator”, Shrimpton said, adding: “We will measure any opportunity according to the value it could bring us.”
He said: “Every mobile operator realises that technology such as Skype is extraordinarily disruptive for their market, and obviously the large incumbents and mobile companies want to protect their revenue for as long as they can.”
Shrimpton suggested “the challengers, the number threes and fours” of the industry who “might take a stab at being the first companies to move into this area and be the disruptive force”.
This is the case with 3, who are launching a Skype service at the end of the year. The package allows users to call other Skype users for free through their 3 handsets. This won’t be a true VoIP experience though, as calls will be made over the mobile network, not over WiFi, and a subscription will more than likely be involved.
Shrimpton said: “Most of the big European mobile operators are currently talking with us about our plans. There isn’t a single one we haven’t had conversations with but for some of them, probably the last thing they’d like to do is to work with us.”
He added: “Traditional ways of capitalising on the mobile market are going to have to dramatically change.”

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