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CTIA: Verizon: Skype client won’t impact wireless ARPU

The Skype mobile app, built exclusively for VZW in the U.S. and running over the operator’s voice network, will be available for nine phones this Thursday.

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Verizon Wireless and Skype today announced that their joint Skype mobile client will be available for a handful of BlackBerry and Android devices running on the VZW network this Thursday. The client will be available for download from Skype.com, the Android market and will be pushed out to Verizon’s existing BlackBerry users.

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The client, announced at Mobile World Congress in a surprising partnership, allows Verizon Wireless smartphone users to make free Skype-to-Skype call and instant messages – with the calls running over Verizon’s voice network, not over the top of its data network as a VoIP call. Operators in general have warmed to the idea of late of third-party mobile VoIP clients, after initial concerns they would compete with core voice services.

In addition to the engineering required to make that happen – from the Verizon network calls will typically hit a Skype gateway and then be carried via the Internet to the called Skype party – the two companies also worked together on the client software experience. With the client, Skype mobile users can:

  • make and receive unlimited Skype-to-Skype voice calls to any Skype contact around the globe
  • send and receive unlimited instant messages with other Skype users
  • manage the Skype contact list directly from the mobile application
  • call international phone numbers at competitive Skype calling rates

In addition, the client runs as an always-on app in the background, meaning that for the first time Skype users will be able to get all their calls and IMs even when they are away from their computer. In addition, the client integrates the device’s native and Skype’s own address books, further integrating the service.

“This was built from the ground up to be an integrated experience,” said Russ Shaw, Skype general manager of Skype mobile, confirming that while Skype will work exclusively with Verizon on this sort of integrated experience, other Skype clients will continue to be available to run over the top of 3G and 4G data networks. However, Skype will put the bulk of its development time and mobile focus on the more integrated Verizon-style clients.

Verizon did the deal with would-be competitor Skype to build an experience customers would want, essentially focusing on customer acquisition over concerns about voice revenue erosion, said John Harrobin, senior vice president of digital media and marketing in a press conference at the CTIA show today.

For starters, customers need to purchase a voice and data plan on their smartphone to qualify to use Skype mobile. Beyond that, “from a wireless ARPU standpoint, we really don’t expect any dilution,” said Verizon’s Harrobin. “Where we create value for both of our companies is with new subscribers on Verizon wireless smart phones, the new audience that may be attracted to this.”

The Verizon Skype mobile client will initially be available on nine devices including the BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, 8830 World Edition, and Tour 9630 smartphones, as well as DROID by Motorola, DROID ERIS by HTC and Motorola DEVOUR.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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