Free Calls on Skype

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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Free Calls on Skype

skype-free-on-3-uk.jpg3 UK is opening up its network to allow anyone with a 3 SIM and a compatible handset to have unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages without ever having to pay. 3UK announced that on May 1st users with a 3UK SIM and a 3-provided Skype-enabled handset will be able to use Skype for free. Additionally, previous deals for free Skype required a monthly topup of £10 on pay-as-you-go and there will be no data charges. Thus, Skype will be 100% free, subject to their fair use policy of course. There is just a one time fee of £1.99 for a SIM card.

Anyone with a compatible unlocked 3G handset in the UK, can take advantage of free Skype calls, whether or not their phone is from 3. This is a huge barrier-busting move by 3 that changes the game. Forget about using AT&T on your iPhone who is preventing Apple from allowing Skype to run over the 3G data connection. Simply get an unlocked iPhone, stick in a 3 SIM and enjoy free Skype calls! Of course, this "free" calling deal only applies to the UK. Why do the Brits get all the fun? No worries, I'm sure this is just the first step before the U.S. gets in on the free Skype calling action. I wonder if there might be some synergies with the new Skype for SIP program (of which I'm a beta tester)?

According to 3 UK, "By removing these key barriers to Skype-to-Skype calls, 3 UK is creating a compelling reason for new customers to join 3 and to enjoy all the products and services available on the UK's biggest mobile broadband network."

According to 3 UK:

We've been working with Skype for over two years now and we've learned a lot about how our customers use the service. We know that a keen mobile Skype user is an instinctive, active communicator. They want to take full advantage of free mobile calls.

Increasingly Skype use is linked to other internet communications activities, such as Facebook, Twitter and a host of other services for which our customers will happily pay a fixed fee for unlimited use.

While others have looked at Skype as a potential threat to voice and text revenues we see another advantage. Did you know when you call a friend on a different mobile network their network will charge your operator a fee for carrying the call? This is called a Mobile Termination Rate or MTR and is currently charged at around 4.7p or more for every minute of the call.

This fee is regulated by the industry regulator Ofcom but we think they're still too high. Without these fees we'd be able to offer our customers much better value and that's where Skype comes in. With Skype, MTRs don't apply so we can give our customers all the minutes they like without over charging them.

At 3, we believe our customers should be able to choose how they communicate because that's mobile as it should be; simple, useful and always good value.

Kevin Russell, Chief Executive Officer of 3 UK, 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."

Josh Silverman, President of Skype 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."

Currently, 3 UK's growing Skype community enjoys 1.5 million minutes of free Skype-to-Skype calls every day. The launch of the first 3 Skypephone in October 2007 really kick-started the growth of free internet calling on the 3 network. With over 433 million people registered on Skype worldwide, the new free Skype-to-Skype offer from 3 opens up a world of free calling.

Two years experience of providing open access to Skype-to-Skype calling has enabled 3 and Skype to better understand the behaviour of mobile Skype users. Success with an easy-to-use Skype experience on more specialised internet-enabled handsets, such as the INQ1 and the 3 Skypephone collection; has proven to 3 that enabling customers to make free Skype calls to other Skype users on their mobiles or PCs is a real benefit.

3 UK has found that regular Skype users:
  • Are less likely to churn than non-Skype users
  • Use more traditional voice minutes than non-Skype users in addition to calling their Skype contacts
  • Use Skype IM, but also send more SMS than non-Skype users
  • Are more likely to browse the internet on their mobile
  • Are higher margin customers
  • Are twice as likely to access social networking sites as non-Skype customers
"Today we are moving in a clear direction towards making Skype-to-Skype calling available to all UK mobile consumers," said Mr Russell. "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."

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