Good news for global mobile enterprises: the new Verizon Skype service will initially be available in March 2010 on a range of BlackBerry smartphones already well entrenched in the business world. These include the Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, 8530 and 8830 World Edition, and Tour 9630.
The Skype Mobile service also will be supported on smartphones using the Google Android OS, including the Motorola DROID and Devour, and the HTC DROID ERIS.
The long-rumored service, developed jointly by Verizon and Skype, was officially announced Feb. 16, 2010, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The partners also hinted heavily at further developments by year-end 2010 as Verizon proceeds with its aggressive 4G LTE rollout plans in the U.S.
Verizon EVP/CMO John Stratton says LTE services will be available to a base of 100 million potential users by the end of 2010. "Our expectation is that there will be an array of devices and services that come with that launch, and we expect some exciting services we'll be announcing with Skype at that time," he says.
Until then, beginning in March, Verizon Wireless users with the abovementioned devices will be able to call any of the 580 million Skype users worldwide from their handhelds. Altogether, Verizon Wireless serves 90 million subscribers in the U.S. Verizon users who subscribe to one of the company's voice and data plans will be able to download a free application that enables them to make and receive unlimited Skype-to-Skype voice calls to any Skype user worldwide.
The calls will be routed via the primary Verizon voice network, not as VoIP calls. In fact, John Stratton, EVP / CMO of Verizon Wireless says the company will require a voice and data plan for customers who want to take advantage of this service.
So what's in it for the customer? Skype calls made using Verizon devices will be part of the Verizon "in" network, which means they won't eat up the user's voice minutes. In addition, users will be able to call international phone numbers at competitive Skype Out calling rates, and send and receive IMs to other Skype users.
Unlike typical Skype service, which requires either appointment calling or a fishing expedition to see who's available at the time you want to place a call, the Verizon Skype service will be "always on," according to Stratton. "This app always runs in background. You're able to make and receive calls in a natural calling pattern."
Stratton claims the app will not have a negative impact on device battery life. Nor, he says, will it overload the company's network. "Unequivocally, we will not allow network quality to erode," he says. "That is cornerstone of our brand and we will do everything we can to prevent that from happening. All of our modeling has been done around use cases and how they'll impact network."
In addition, Verizon's Skype users in America will have a "rich and compelling" address book that provides presence awareness. "I can see who is in my address book and their presence status, [whether they are] available and ready to take a call," says Stratton. "I can change my presence status to, I can see where people are, and I can launch a Skype call or chat as easily as I would make a voice call or chat. Suddenly, inbound [Skype] calls become possible. I'm not tethered to a PC anymore."
Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, Stratton says he expects the offering to further the loyalty of existing customers as well as lure in new subscribers from among the 200 million wireless users who are now on other networks.
While the app developed with Verizon is exclusive to that network, Skype CEO Josh Silverman notes, "We're open to talking to other operators in other parts of the world." Skype users are growing at a rate of 300,000 per day, according to Silverman.