Nokia is about to see just how much sway it has with mobile providers following news that it is to start bundling eBay's Skype voice-over-IP software with its new handsets.
According to an article published by Reuters – via Wired.com
– the Finnish mobile giant has entered into an agreement with the eBay-owned Skype to preload its voice-over-IP software into a selection of its smartphones towards the end of this year – starting with the N-97.
The software will be directly integrated into the handset, unlike the third-party downloadable version which is currently offered by Skype for certain platforms – meaning such features as a shared address book and instant calling from the telephone's main screen.
This, of course, is something which terrifies mobile providers: if you can make a call cheaply – or even for free – via a voice-over-IP system, that's call revenue which is going straight down the drain. It's for this reason that many providers seek to block the use of VoIP technologies on many of their tariffs – and provide custom firmware which removes any pre-installed packages that would allow Internet-based calling.
Skype claims that providers have nothing to worry about, however: chief executive Josh Silverman cites an earlier deal with the 3 network which saw average revenue per customer rise by twenty percent with the introduction of voice-over-IP technology onto handsets – mostly by users being encouraged to switch to pay-monthly all-inclusive data plans, which also drove use of the provider's other service offerings.
It's still a hard sell for both companies, however: many mobile providers still see call revenue as critical to their bottom line. For this reason it will be interesting to see just how many provider-branded versions of the N-97 come with Skype software pre-installed.
Do you think that voice-over-IP on a mobile telephone is a great idea or a waste of time? Are mobile providers right to resist the idea? Share your thoughts over in the forums