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 Skype 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 iPhone 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.