Skype, the VoIP phenomenon that could scuttle the conventional phone networks – and which eBay acquired for US$4.1 billion – is set to attack the mainstream market.

In the US, $5 kits are already going on sale through RadioShack stores – and other mass marketers will follow.

The mass adoption of free VoIP calls will put pressure on Australian Communications Minister Helen Coonan, who plans today to release recommendations on new rules for VoIP phone services. AustralianIT says the Coonan rules follow an investigation into the regulation of VoIP services, by her department. The department is set to suggest a “staged” transition toward next-generation networks, including free emergency 000 and 106 calls.

But they’re likely to find the stable doors swinging and that the e-telco horse has bolted. Skype already has 66 million customers, mainly in Europe and Asia. Its move into the mass market promises to raise Skype’s profile with US broadband users, who already have low-cost Internet connections from Vonage and others.

“The retail pact with RadioShack is Skype’s first general distribution deal with a retailer anywhere in the world,” said Saul Klein, Skype’s VP of global marketing.

RadioShack will offer a new US$100 Motorola headset that uses Bluetooth technology to connect Skype. It will sell a $40 headset from Logitech and a $129 cordless phone from Cisco. RadioShack’s Skype kits start at $5 with a simple earpiece/microphone, software and 30 minutes of free Skype to any number in the world. Sales staff will offer training videos and software to customers.


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