Skype has been an amazing success in the wireline domain, with over 171 million registered users, availability in 28 languages, and a large eco-system of WiFi handsets and Cordless Phones (Netgear WiFi Phone), Telecom gateways (iSkoot), and ATA/Gateways (VoSky). However, Skype has a very limited presence on cellular networks.
Its not for lacking of trying – Skype probably has engaged cellular service providers, but with very limited success. For example, Skype has a partnership with the cellular provider ‘3’ to offer Skype on cellphones, but using a gateway from iSkoot rather than installing a Skype client on the mobile phone. This allows ‘3’ to utilize its voice network capacity and measure minutes of use. More importantly, it appears to be a great ploy to use Skype buzz to promote ‘3’s services on the X-series handsets. Likewise, even Skype’s short lived promotion with German cellular operator E-Plus was to promote its 3G service via Skype. Similarly, a partnership with Motorola to develop a Skype client has gone nowhere.
The primary reason wireless operators baulk at Skype is the fear of cannibalizing voice ARPU and over-utilizing its data network. Skype’s wireless ambitions haven’t succeeded, so Skype has resorted to complaining and petitioning the FCC. I’m sure wireless operators will welcome Skype into their backyard now!
For the following reasons, Skype will not be a mainstream cellular application anytime soon:
- Most mobile phones are closed. It is virtually impossible for a user to install a Skype client without the cellular operators support. These are the run-of-the-mill phones that comprise about 90% of mobile phones in the US (PDA’s, Smartphones, or Blackberrys are not in this category).
- Most users couldn’t install applications in mobile phones. Even if the users could install applications on a phone, many users don’t know how to do it. In theory, users could install applications in Java phones, but difficult in practice for ordinary users. It is much easier to install an application on a PDA, Smartphone, or a Blackberry, but still few people do it.
- Cellular networks are not geared for Peer-to-Peer (P2P). Skype uses P2P, and if a Skype application on a mobile phone acts as a ‘supernode’, it can be sending and receiving transmissions even when the user is not on a Skype call. This can clog up todays wireless networks quickly (even 3G), reducing the service experience for other wireless users as well.
- No quality guarantees. Skype is a VoIP technology, and in packet data networks, transmissions have to compete with other transmissions. In most cases, voice communication requires constant transmission in both directions, but this cannot be guarateed without Qualty of Service (QoS) guarantees.
Without cooperation from cellular providers, Skype may be limited to either complaining and petitioning the FCC and working with gateway providers such as iSkoot
IPdrum has a clugy way to use Skype from a cell phone.
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