Verizon teams with Skype for VoIP application

BARCELONA, Spain--Making the rumors a reality, Verizon Wireless and Skype today announced that Verizon will launch a custom Skype Mobile application for smartphones in March. The application will be free and will be available for smartphone users with an existing voice and data plan.

John Stratton and Josh Silverman, Verizon and SkypeThe 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 Storm 2, the Curve and the Tour as well as Android phones such as the Motorola Droid, the Droid Eris and the Motorola Devour.

During a press conference at the Mobile World Congress trade show here, John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, said the Skype Mobile application was built specifically for Verizon's network. However, the application will not allow voice-over-WiFi calls from WiFi-equipped Verizon smartphones. 

Neither Skype nor Verizon would reveal details on the business arrangement. However, Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, assured members of the audience that the company will make money from this application, which will enable Skype customers to become "untethered from their laptops." Neither Stratton nor Silverman would say whether the deal was exclusive, however Stratton said that users "won't see an application like this anywhere else in the U.S."

An alliance between these two longtime adversaries is notable. In the past, Skype has challenged wireless carriers over what it perceives as their closed-network mentality. But recently Verizon has become more amenable to working with its former enemies. In October, the company announced a partnership with longtime rival Google, a teaming that has so far produced a handful of Verizon-powered Android phones. At the time, Verizon also said it would support Google Voice.

Of course, Verizon isn't alone in the mobile VoIP arena. AT&T Mobility had long been criticized for preventing VoIP iPhone applications from running on its 3G network. However, the carrier relented on the topic last year, thereby paving the way for Skype's iPhone app to transmit low-cost calls across AT&T's cellular network (previously, only WiFi connections could carry iPhone VoIP calls).

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