With more than 45 million users, Skype Technologies has carved out a market by piggybacking on the world’s telephony networks; now start-up iSkoot is piggybacking on Skype to bring free international phone calls from cell phones. iSkoot said Monday it is offering free Beta software for its service, which will eventually cost $9.95 a year.
In an interview, iSkoot’s CEO and founder Jacob Guedalia said he has not talked with Skype about his service and a Skype spokesperson said she hadn’t heard of iSkoot.
“We’re empowering people to be their own international carrier,” said Guedalia. “We’re basing this on the PBX concept where local calls are free. We create a gateway for people to make international calls over their PCs.” Users initiate calls by sending a text message to iSkoot, which establishes the connection. The Beta currently operates only with incoming calls, although Guedalia said the outgoing feature should be available in a few days.
Guedalia, a successful entrepreneur who has started three firms, said he and his brother are supplying the venture financing for iSkoot along with Jesselson Capital Corp. of New York City. One firm started by Guedalia, Mobilee, was sold to NMS Communications for $13 million, Jacob Guedalia noted.
Another firm that plans to bring free and inexpensive international calling through Skype is IPdrum of Norway, which has a hardware-based solution, the IPdrum Mobile Cable. IPdrum plans to offer its cell phone calling solution in retail stores in Scandinavia and on its Web site later this month. The IPdrum approach, which requires users to have a second cell phone and SIM card connected to their PCs, also requires users to purchase a cable for $70 or so, according to the firm’s press materials.