BBC reports today indicate that mobile provider Three will team up with Skype to deliver a Skype phone in the U.K. that will allow free phone calls without the hassle of turning on the computer, buying special software or headsets and setting up new accounts.
According to the report, Skype will be teaming up with mobile operator 3 from the end of November. They will release a fully integrated mobile phone that will mean free mobile to mobile phone calls for anyone swapping networks.
This should be good news for 3. Providing free mobile to mobile calls from anywhere in the world, in association with Skype, could cause all the other operators enormous pain.
Rattling the competition
Speaking to the BBC, Per Lindberg, a telecommunications and IT analyst at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort said, “Whether they win market share depends completely on their competitors’ reactions.” He thinks a move such as this could prompt all the operators to cut their prices, “If Vodafone or Telefonica move to ‘all-you-can-eat’ then the situation may change.”
Skype’s phone could even be a threat to other new entrants such as Apple’s iPhone or Google’s rumoured GPhone. Sprint Nextel could also take over Vonage and integrate VOIP services into their products even more seamlessly than Skype can.
Three is the mobile business of Hong Kong based Hutchison Whampoa, better known in Asia and the USA for Hutchison Telecom and the Harbour Plaza hotel group. Skype was acquired by Ebay back in 2005 for $2.6 Billion. Recently, though, Ebay was publicly dissatisfied with Skype’s performance, when it was forced to announce to shareholders that it would have to pay an impairment charge of $900 million because it had over-valued the group.
If the Skype – 3 deal delivers on promise, it could prove to be a turn-around point for Skype as well as the sagging VOIP industry on the whole.