Hunting for business outside the consumer margins, Hutchison Telecommunications’ “3” third-generation operation has teamed up with Skype, now owned by eBay – to launch a Skype-branded 3G mobile handset that targets small and medium business users.
But the phone – also released in the UK yesterday – won’t be available in Australia until Christmas. And it will only dial other Skype users.
Still analysts are hailing the move as a potential winner for 3 globally.
“The bigger operators, such as Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange, have all taken flak recently for alleged hostility towards customers using VoIP on their networks,” noted Ovum principal analyst John Delaney, commenting on Monday’s launch by 3 UK. “Now, here comes 3, not only encouraging its customers to use VoIP, but bending over backwards to make it easy for them.”
Delaney nevertheless warns that the Skype phone could languish as a niche offering unless 3 expands the range of handsets and makes Skype in/Skype out available. At the moment only Skype-to-Skype is supported.
In Australia, the phone will cost $179 for prepaid customers or free with a capped plan over 24 months. Marketing it as affordable and easy to use, 3 says the phone will be available locally in time for Christmas.
If not used as a pre-paid phone, the Skype handset is free on cap plans, and comes with 4000 minutes of free Skype to Skype calls and 10,000 free Skype chat messages each month, 3 says.
The phone has a 2 megapixel camera, and will come in white with a “sky blue”
trim, white with a hot pink trim and black. The handset was developed by Skype and 3 with Qualcomm.