Verizon Plans to Put Skype on its Phones

Bloomberg is reporting that Verizon is planning on adding official support for Skype to its handsets. The two companies are expected to announce a partnership at the Mobile World Congress on February 16, which will allow Skype calls to be made from Verizon phones using the provider’s 3G data plan.
This would be a shrewd move on the part of Verizon. Voice calls are becoming a less and less of a profit center for wireless carriers. Look at the big price cuts that both Verizon and AT&T introduced last month: The biggest area of price savings is in unlimited voice plans. Data is still a premium, and in the case of Verizon, there are still data caps for mobile data usage.

For consumers, having SkypeSkype pre-loaded on a phone — which Bloomberg says is to be on a range of low and high-end handsets — might mean that instead of paying for a voice plan (or a more expensive voice plan), the option to get a better data plan and just use Skype when making calls might make more sense.

Bloomberg quotes IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen:

“What’s important is that Verizon understands that, at some point, they are going to be losing voice minutes to the data world. This makes their platform more valuable for end-users. It could be a differentiator for Verizon Wireless.”

Although Verizon is the largest wireless carrier in the US, it faces stiff competition from AT&T. Although AT&T’s service is pretty universally reviled, AT&T has the iPhoneiPhone and that continues to drive customers to the carrier. While AT&T is expected to lose exclusivity at some point, it is unclear when or if Verizon will get to carry the device. As it stands, AT&T will be the 3G data provider for Apple’s iPad this April.

Skype works on AT&T’s WiFi network and a 3G version is in the works as well. Depending on which carrier can offer 3G access to Skype first — and on what phones — could depend on how valuable this feature is.

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