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Verizon + Skype: Sea change for mobile

A Motorola Droid phone sold through Verizon.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: This morning, Verizon rolled out a new application for its Android and Blackberry smartphones. The nation's biggest wireless carrier will allow subscribers to make calls using Skype -- the voice-over-internet service. Here's Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman.


Mitchell Hartman: If you have SkypeMobile, and the person you call in, say, Israel or Brazil, does too, the call is free. That's because it's traveling along Verizon's data network, just like any other internet connection.

The companies are pitching this hard in a new YouTube video:

Skype Video: You can make unlimited calls to other people on Skype, and they won't use up your plan minutes or incur data charges. Talk as long as you want.

Maggie Reardon of the technology news site CNET was at the Vegas trade show where the app was unveiled. She says unlike when you use Skype on a computer or iPhone, with Verozon it'll always be on.

Maggie Reardon: They don't even have to be logged into the application, they can just pick up the call, and that's pretty cool.

Christopher Collins: It wasn't that long ago that Verizon was dead-set against this idea.

Christopher Collins tracks consumer technology at the Yankee Group. He says the wireless industry has mostly tried to block us from making Internet calls on cell phones. That's so we'll have to pay for all those minutes.

Collins: Why this is not necessarily Verizon "eating its own lunch," as some might have said, is it's just an acknowledgement of the fact that wireless is increasingly becoming all about data. And the traditional way of thinking about, "Well, I'll buy a plan that gives me so many voice minutes," that's just becoming increasingly irrelevant.

What is driving revenue? Expensive smartphones, and high-end data plans to match -- both of which you'll need to reach Skype's 500 million users worldwide.

One thing you won't get on a Skype mobile app, by the way: video calling. Think about it: those cell phone cameras all point the wrong way.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.
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I am very impressed with the long term investments Verizon is making. FiOS, now Skype. Most of their kin are myopic and very short sighted and very focused on short term profits and Verizon is going to eat their lunch in the next few years while their competitors spend alot of capex to grow their capacity (i.e. cable companies) to keep up with their offerings.

Fiber (Verizon) handles alot of data especially all the way to the house via FTTH. Coax (cable TV) does not and will be a thorn in their side while FiOS out runs them with new offerings. It's nice to have competition back again!

Too bad the traditional short term corporate mindset is not more ubiquitious regarding bandwidth in the US. Blame Wall St. and the corporate governance boards for that.

Asia is kicking our arse on bandwidth. I am glad Google is shaking this up as they are going to compete with the telcos and cable companies to offer VERY HIGH speed internet access; IT'S ABOUT TIME!

They have very deep pockets and really show they care about this great country, where the laws are bought by the incumbent vendors and special interest lobbyists; That is just horrible how that works in Washington.

"One thing you won't get on a Skype mobile app, by the way: video calling. Think about it: those cell phone cameras all point the wrong way."

That's exactly why the EVO (to be released on Sprint's network) has a 1.3mp camera on the front of it.

Back to Verizon, funny thing about it is that the Skype app can't even be launched with the WiFi enabled on the phone (according to reports), meaning all of your calls go through Verizon's data network. What's the reasoning behind that I wonder.

I just ordered a Nokia N900 specifically so that I can call Brazil from Dallas without having to spend so much on 'long distance' charges. By the way, I hear that Nokia will be coming out with a phone that does video calling pretty soon.

It amazes me how slow these carriers are to embrace what is an eventuality! C'mon! Be a leader for once! At least Verizon is on the right track. Kudos to them.

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