Skype, the voice-over-IP service that carriers once viewed as a major threat, is emerging as a possible source of incremental revenue for operators. Starting next month, customers in some cities will be able to buy Skype credits directly from their smartphones or computers, and pay their carriers directly on their phone bills. The prices paid by users will be the same as they pay when they buy directly from Skype, but that doesn’t mean that operators won’t get a cut when customers pay through them.
Skype is working with MACH, a provider of direct operator billing which counts 650 mobile operators worldwide as its customers. MACH and Skype are both headquartered in Luxembourg, Belgium, although Skype is fully owned by Microsoft (MSFT). The Seattle software giant is of course laser-focused on its new Windows 8 operating system, launched this week on Nokia’s two newest smartphones. Although most features of the new operating system are still unknown, reports that Skype has a prominent position on the Nokia handsets are already surfacing.
Skype’s CEO has said that more iOS users download the Skype app than do users of any other mobile platform, but he sees Windows 8 and Android growing quickly. The service currently has 250 million monthly users, up from 170 million when Microsoft bought the company 16 months ago.
In the United States, Verizon Wireless has been more proactive than other carriers when it comes to working with Skype. Recognizing that the VoIP service is an obvious choice for customers faced with high international call rates, Verizon has been selling smartphones with Skype pre-installed for two years.
Of course, Skype is not the only VoIP service out there, and there are plenty of cloud-based software providers eager to work with carriers to help them offer their own VoIP as a way to compete against Skype and other so-called OTT players.
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