Verizon launching Skype Mobile app this week

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LAS VEGAS--Verizon Wireless smartphone customers will be able to use Skype Mobile on their devices starting Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference during the CTIA Wireless 2010 conference here, Russ Shaw, general manager of Mobile for Skype, noted that the new app was built from the ground up in collaboration with Verizon. The app's value proposition, he said, is "free and truly unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls," low-cost international calls and the ability to receive Skype calls on the go without being tethered to a PC. Further, customers can manage their Skype contact list directly from the mobile app. The app will run in the background once a smartphone user signs in, enabling Skype contacts to detect the user's availability. "We are going to strongly recommend it to all of our Skype customers in the U.S.," he said.

Skype Mobile will enable unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and Skype-to-Skype instant messaging that will not count against a Verizon customer's voice calling plan or data-package usage limits.

Verizon will route every Skype Mobile call over its existing, circuit-switched network rather than delivering VoIP over EV-DO. Skype Mobile calls will go to a Skype gateway upon exiting the Verizon network. Thus, the new application will not enable voice-over-WiFi calls from WiFi-equipped Verizon smartphones.

"We purposely made the decision" to route Skype voice calls over the circuit-switched network "because that's what the network was designed for," said John Harrobin, Verizon Wireless' senior vice president of digital media and marketing. "We needed to do this to ensure Skype Mobile is a great experience," he said, acknowledging that there are still issues with quality of service for voice calls made over data networks, such as Verizon's EV-DO network.

Though Skype Mobile might cut into Verizon's long-distance revenue, "We really don't expect dilution," said Harrobin, explaining that Verizon hopes to more than make up for any lost revenue by attracting new customers who are interested in Skype.

Initially announced at the Mobile World Congress trade show earlier this year in Barcelona, Spain, the Skype Mobile app will enable Verizon customers to connect with more than 500 million Skype users worldwide.

Initially the application will be available on nine devices including the BlackBerry Storm and Storm2, the Curve and the Tour as well as Android phones such as the Motorola Droid, HTC Droid Eris and Motorola Devour. Skype Mobile will not be pre-installed on Android devices, but can be downloaded from the Android Market. Current BlackBerry customers will get an icon for the app automatically downloaded to their devices on Thursday, while new BlackBerry customers will see the app in the Download folder on their device.

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