3 UK is to make Skype calls free to customers from May 1, in a move that runs contrary to its rivals’ policy on mobile VoIP traffic
Customers with a 3 SIM card and a Skype-enabled 3G handset, will be able to make free Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages without being required to sign up to a monthly subscription or to top-up their prepay account.
3 is offering the Skype calls free of any data charges or airtime payments. Customers will be required to buy a 3 SIM card only, usable with any unlocked 3G device.
VoIP providers, represented by the Voice on the Net Coalition, last week urged European leaders to allows mobile customers unrestricted access to mobile VoIP services, following T-Mobile’s move to block Skype on Apple iPhones in Germany.
T-Mobile Germany’s action was the latest in a string of blockages by incumbent providers against mobile VoIP services in the UK and Europe.
3 UK chief executive Kevin Russell said: “Communication through the internet is exploding. Internet calling or VoIP, social networking, instant messaging and email are used by millions in the UK every single day.
“They are open to all on their PCs and laptops. We want people to be free to communicate from their mobiles in the same way as they do from their PCs.
“In future you will be able to buy a 3 SIM for unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls for less than the price of a cup of coffee and talk for as much as you want without ever paying us another penny.
“We won’t ask you for a top-up or a monthly commitment. If you want to talk on a mobile for free, just join us and give it a go. This is for everyone.”
Skype president Josh Silverman said: “Demand for mobile access from our users has never been higher. The introduction of unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages across all 3 price plans is a really exciting move from a key partner.
“3 UK clearly understands the desire for people to use Skype wherever and whenever they want. This is the first mobile network to show this kind of innovation to enable their customers to access Skype.
“We believe this is how the future looks for the internet on mobile. With this bold move 3 UK has again shown their willingness to be the customer champion for mobile services in the UK.”
3 said it already facilitates 1.5 million Skype minutes on its network each day in the UK. It launched the Skypephone in October 2007.
Skype has over 433 million registered users worldwide.
3 reckons the Skype offer will bring new customers, and incremental business to its base as Skype users deploy other 3 services. It also reckons churn rates among existing Skype users on its network are lower than among non-Skype users, and mobile internet usage is also higher.
Russell said: “Today we are moving in a clear direction towards making Skype-to-Skype calling available to all UK mobile consumers.
“We know that Skype users are instinctive communicators, keen social networkers and mobile internet users. They love the things that we are building the UK’s biggest mobile broadband network for.
“Our network is built to deliver the benefits of the internet to the mobile. That’s why we’re removing the conditions and restrictions from our current Skype offer and opening up the opportunity to try free internet calling to all UK mobile users, whether they are currently with us or a competitor network.”