Carrier WiFi

Skype's Mobile Appeal

Mobile phones that can communicate using the Skype free VOIP service are slowly coming to market, and while the eagerly awaited software tends to be promoted as a consumer offering, certain tech-savvy enterprise organizations are interested in using the application to cut their business phone bills.

Calypso Wireless Inc. , for instance, announced this morning that it will demonstrate its C1250i WiFi-GSM VOIP Skype Calls Connectivity cellular phones [Ed note: Catchy name!] at the 3GSM in Barcelona, Spain. The phone allows users to log into Skype with their PC ID and password and make long distance calls over a WiFi connection, if one is available.

WLAN gear maker Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) announced in January that it also has a WiFi-only Skype mobile handset in the works. (See CES: WLAN Speed Record?.) There are a number of "softphone" clients available for handheld computers.

Long-time Skype user David Callisch, communications director at Mountain View, Calif.-based wireless startup Ruckus Wireless Inc. , believes that new Skype mobile devices could be attractive to corporate users.

"It would be neat, especially if the price [for WiFi-only handsets] is under $100, or it's a dual-mode device," says Callisch.

Saving money on phone bills is the only tangible reason for businesses to use Skype and, according to Callisch, "It's really effective for that if your workforce is computer literate."

Skype-capable mobile phones could enable business users to take those savings on the road. The obvious limitation to that concept is WiFi hotspot coverage: If the user spends a lot of time hanging round airports and hotel lobbies, then a standalone WiFi device might be adequate. Otherwise a dual-mode phone is the way to go.

Skype certainly isn't for every enterprise user; as Callisch points out, you get what you pay for in terms of voice service.

"It's hit or miss. I might make a call and get a great connection, or I might get a really crappy one," shrugs Callisch. "It's like anything that's free and runs over the Internet." Still, the lure of free mobile calls may be too much for some enterprise users to resist.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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