The 3 Network and Skype have created a mobile phone handset with Skype button, so the user can make free Skype calls into the internet to any Skype user world-wide. To be precise, you can talk for 4000 minutes per month and send 10,000 chat messages per month free of charge, there is also no data charge for these Skype calls, which in my opinion is the real interesting part in this deal – more on that later. You just need to pay for your regular mobile phone calls, by contract or Pay as You Go.
For Skype, which is owned by eBay, this is a good deal as it allows Skype users to stay connected to Skype while on the move with one device, the new 3 Skypephone. As acting Skype CEO Michael van Swaaij said, “people will no longer “phone” each other, they will “Skype” each other over the 3 Network!”
Noteworthy here is that no SkypeIn and SkypeOut is currently available on the 3 Skypephone. SkypeIn will be available sometime in the future, whenever that will be? It was not quite clear why it is not available now. SkypeOut will not be available anytime soon.
Things got a little heated when Mr. van Swaaij, was asked about possible future outages, he said “This was not really an issue since the last outage was only 24 hours in four years and the service was free and not a replacement for a normal telephone!” This opinion was repeated by other Skype team members in later conversations. Personally I find this attitude disturbing and factually wrong, as the outage was around 48 hours.
For me the real news is that the 3 Network, owned by Hutchison Whampoa Limited, is leveraging their network in a new way, to attract subscriptions. 4,000 minutes and 10,000 chat messages free Skype traffic is a real commitment to their new open internet strategy, as CEO Kevin Russell put it. While the service is currently only available in the UK, Australia, Italy and Denmark, I would hope this brave move will reward the 3 Network with the deserved success. Even more interesting deals may be possible to make the 3 brand even more attractive, like delivering Web 2.0 applications over the mobile network at fixed prices or even for free.
It will be interesting to see, what the T-Mobiles, Vodafones, O2s of this world will make of this offer? The 3 Network will hope that they will not react soon, to give them more time to get a bigger market share, but time will tell.
I believe the appeal for endusers – especially the facebook generation – will be huge, free calls to friends and family via Skype has got to be a winner.
But more importantly for me – with my focus on small business and Skype’s apparent customer support issues – the 3 Skypephone has some growing up to do before I will consider it a small business tool.
While I personally may have a Skype dilemma, one thing is clear, today the mobile phone ball game has changed forever. ST.
Update Oct 31, 2007: See comments by other bloggers I met during the event and get their take on the phone: