Skype launches direct carrier billing in Russia, soon will bring it to U.S.

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Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype unit launched a new program to support direct carrier billing for Skype mobile VoIP credits in Russia, and the company said it will bring the service to the United States as well.

Skype is teaming with Mach, a company that specializes in direct operator billing, to deliver the service, giving carriers a cut of the revenue Skype generates. The decision is a step toward reversing the trend that has prevailed during the past several years as Skype and other VoIP and over-the-top messaging providers have cut into carriers' traditional calling and messaging revenue. 

With the new payment option, Skype users can purchase Skype Credit from their mobile devices through a browser-based transaction that the company said is secure, seamless and convenient. They can then pay either as part of their monthly cell phone bill or using their mobile carrier's prepaid account balance. The service is now available in Russia.

A Mach spokeswoman told GigaOM the same arrangement will be extended to Skype users in the United States and Canada later this month, with more countries to follow. Mach will team with payvia, a mobile and online payments company, to connect directly with U.S. carriers. It is unclear how much of a cut operators will get or which ones will participate. As GigaOM notes, Mach lists Orange, Telefónica, T-Mobile, Telus and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) as customers.

This is not the first time that Skype has cozied up to wireless carriers. In 2010 the company struck  a deal with Verizon to launch a custom Skype Mobile application for smartphones, which was later extended to non-smartphones.

For more:
- see this release
- see this GigaOM article
- see this WSJ blog post (sub. req.)
- see this Engadget article

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