Once a foe, Skype makes mobile friends

22 Nov 2010

Skype is the least surprising company to find at a mobile trade show.

Both key elements of its business - voice and broadband – are shifting rapidly to mobile. Russ Shaw, who flew the flag for Skype at last week’s Mobile Asia Congress, says the focus is to get on as many devices and platforms as possible.

But what does surprise is how mobile-friendly Skype’s pitch has become.

When its high-quality VoIP service started five years ago it was seen as a dagger into the heart of telcos.

Now Skype cites a study of 3UK Skype users that shows they generate 60% more voice revenue, churn 14% less and offer an extra 20% margin than non-users.

Shaw, who is vice president and head of Skype’s EMEA and mobile business units, admits the figures are “counter-intituitive,” but says operators get “very engaged and active customers who are communicating regularly.”

In other words, a shortcut to the most desirable mobile customers.

Skype has won over some big-name operators. Apart from Hutchison UK, which has been working with Skype for four years, Skype has recently signed up Verizon Wireless and KDDI.

The deal with Verizon has also opened the way to partnerships with handset vendors, who previously had been “nervous” about getting involved with Skype, Shaw said.

But the Luxembourg-based firm sees its biggest opportunity in an app that 3G operators long ago gave up on – mobile video.

Shaw thinks Skype has “the experience and the pricing” to make it fly. Plus the fact that 40% of desktop Skype minutes now are taken up by video calls.

But the key will be the arrival of LTE. Both Verizon and KDDI are about to debut 4G services.

“3G is a good network, but I think you will see it come into its own with 4G,” says Shaw. “All you need is a data plan – then you use Skype as you use it on your desktop.”

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