In a move as siginficant as it was inevitable, Boingo and Skype will collaborate in creating Skype Zones, Boingo-operated hotspots where customers will be able to use Skype VoIP. More than 45 million users of Skype will be able to access IP telephony in any of Boingo's 18,000 hotspots around the world. The companies are offering unlimited WiFi access for Skype Internet telephony calls for $7.95 per month (users may also choose a two-hour fee option for $2.95). The $7.95 and $2.95 are designed as a Skype-only service; to get full access for Web surfing, email, instant messaging, and more a user must pay Boingo up to $22 per month.
The new service includes Boingo's WiFi sniffer, connection management, and roaming authentication capabilities. After being connected, users may make Skype calls and access other Skype features such as presence, global user directory, contact lists, and instant messages with the Skype software. The fees for Skype Zones do not include calls made to standard phone lines (SkypeOut) or calls received from those same lines (SkypeIn). Skype Zones is currently limited to users of the Windows operating system.
Research group Atlantic-ACM estaimates that VoIP use will expand at a compound annual rate of 64 percent through 2009. The experience of Skype offers proof of that -- more than 140,000 new users register for its services each day. Analysts say that the deal is a move in the right direction, even if it is not quite clear yet who will be using the service. Many VoIP users use it to make international calls, and even though $7.95 per month is a low price, there is a question about how many of them would pay extra money to make these calls from a noisy coffee shop or a busy hotel lounge.
PLUS: At last week's Computex, held in Taipei, several companies showed handset models ranging from advanced phones with WiFi and GSM support and SIP-compatible handsets which work with most IP telephony services to basic consumer models designed for use with Skype. Story