3 launches flat-rate mobile Skype, Sling, Orb

If you believe the pomp and hype coming out of the U.K., today is a watershed moment for the 3G market: Hutchison Whampoa's U.K. carrier 3 launched a flat-rate wireless data package that includes services from Skype, eBay, Yahoo, Google, Orb, Sling Media, Nokia, Microsoft and Sony Ericsson. Subscribers to the "X-Series" services will be able to make unlimited calls from their mobile using Skype, watch their home television via their mobile using Sling (if they also buy a SlingBox), access their home PC remotely using Orb and use IM services from Yahoo!, Windows Live Messenger and Google. The offering also marks the first mobile carrier deal for The Fierce 15 winner Sling Media. Sony Ericsson's W950i (photo) and Nokia's N73 (photo) are the X-Series handsets. The service drops in the U.K. starting next month, and in 3's other markets sometime next year. No word on the "flat-rate" price yet, but I'm willing to bet on sticker shock.

Despite the probably high cost, I agree with John Delaney, an analyst over at Ovum who points out that everything a traditional carrier fears is included in this package: wireless VoIP, flat-rate data tariffs, IM (as opposed to SMS) and place-shifted TV. Of course, free Skype calls only apply for PCs or other Skype phones. 3's in the position to take these risks, it's not an incumbent with traditional fears, but as noted above, the price will be key, as always. So what'll it be, 100 quid?

For all the details on 3's X-Series launch:
- see this press release