Verizon Wireless has become the second mobile operator to partner with VoIP player Skype.
Verizon and Skype said Tuesday that they co-developed a mobile offering for Verizon’s 1xEV-DO customers, who can download the free client to smartphones and use the Skype service to make unlimited free calls to Skype users worldwide and Skype Out at the usual rates.
Skype will initially be supported on nine Verizon-approved smartphones – six BlackBerry models, Motorola’s Droid and Devour devices and HTC’s Droid Eris.
Skype will run over Verizon’s EV-DO network, rather than be restricted to Wi-Fi connections, a condition AT&T originally imposed on Skype’s iPhone app ostensibly to keep VoIP calls from eating its voice business and overwhelming its network.
AT&T subsequently changed its mind and allowed Skype to run on its 3G network in October 2009.
Verizon executive vice president and chief marketing officer John Stratton said the EV-DO network will be able to handle the load.
“We did modeling of the Skype usage case to measure the network impact, and we’re confident that it won’t be a problem. The one thing we won’t do is allow our network quality to erode.”
Stratton also said that Verizon was now ready to embrace Skype because modern smartphones were able to deliver a good experience, and also because it will help drive smartphone uptake and usage.
“We’ve made a bet here, because we like what Skype has been doing, and the fact that they’re signing up 300,000 new users per day,” he said.
Both companies declined to reveal financial details of the partnership, as well as details on just how much the Skype mobile client will support functionality like simultaneous voice and chat.
The deal is also a boost for Skype, which has been actively seeking new operator deals after revealing in November last year that its partnership with 3 UK helped the cellco boost its circuit-switched voice and SMS business rather than cannibalize it.
“We’re seeing attitude changes with operators,” said Skype CEO Josh Silverman. “Our experience with 3 demonstrated that they could make more money with Skype.”
Silverman hedged on describing the Verizon hook-up as an exclusive deal, but said, “The software offering that we’ve co-developed is something that’s exclusive to Verizon.”