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Verizon Adds Skype To Smartphones

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is a proverb appropriate for Verizon Wireless' embrace of Skype's VoIP calling service in a partnership announced Tuesday.

The strategic relationship between the firms will enable users of nine Verizon Wireless smartphones -- including six BlackBerry models -- with data plans to use Skype's VoIP network to make inexpensive global calls. In the past, Verizon, like most mobile carriers, has fought the use of VoIP calls on their networks.

"Skype mobile on Verizon Wireless changes the game," said John Stratton, executive VP and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, in a statement. "For Verizon Wireless' more than 90 million customers, Skype mobile adds great value because we're effectively giving customers with smartphones and data plans the option to extend their unlimited calling community to hundreds of millions of Skype users around the globe."

Skype users can call each other free-of-charge and they can make calls to non-Skype users for low prices, generally about 2.5 cents a minute. In the past, Verizon Wireless' parent company, Verizon Communications, fought VoIP calling plans. Verizon Wireless is 45% owned by Vodafone Group.

The new Skype product is offered on BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, World Edition 8830, and Tour 9630; Motorola's Droid and Devour; and HTC's Droid Eris handsets.

Skype has had a long-standing partnership with iSkoot to provide VoIP calling on various GSM carrier networks. Skype's deal with Verizon Wireless is unusual because Verizon uses a non-GSM network, CDMA2000. Skype and Verizon Wireless developed their plan together, the firms said.

Traditionally, carriers have sought to block VoIP calling like Skype's, but they have softened their opposition as VoIP calls have taken hold, particularly as Wi-Fi capability has appeared on smartphones.
The Skype service on Verizon Wireless can run in background mode, making callers instantly accessible to Verizon's smartphone subscribers. Skype's instant messaging will also be available on the service, which is scheduled to be launched next month.

Skype has more than 400 million registered users. Verizon Wireless is the largest U.S. mobile phone carrier by number of subscribers.