We have long known 3 has done more to push VoIP than any other UK network - in fact, it is the only UK network to try and push VoIP! Yet this takes things to a whole new level...
Fulfilling many customers dreams, the progressive telco has today opened up its network to free Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages for all. In its own words: "no top-ups, no data charges, just free mobile Skype." The remarkable gesture simply requires any user to have a 3 SIM and compatible handset to enjoy the service "without ever having to pay".
"Communication through the internet is exploding," admitted 3 CEO Kevin Russell. "Internet calling or VoIP, social networking, instant messaging and email are used by millions in the UK every single day. They are open to all on their PCs and laptops. We want people to be free to communicate from their mobiles in the same way as they do from their PCs."
"In future you will be able to buy a 3 SIM for unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls for less than the price of a cup of coffee and talk for as much as you want without ever paying us another penny. We won't ask you for a top-up or a monthly commitment. If you want to talk on a mobile for free, just join us and give it a go. This is for everyone."
No, I swear I'm not making this up!
"Demand for mobile access from our users has never been higher," said understandably thrilled Skype president Joel Silverman. "The introduction of unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages across all 3 price plans is a really exciting move from a key partner. 3 UK clearly understands the desire for people to use Skype wherever and whenever they want. This is the first mobile network to show this kind of innovation to enable their customers to access Skype. We believe this is how the future looks for the Internet on mobile. With this bold move 3 UK has again shown their willingness to be the customer champion for mobile services in the UK."
So why is 3 doing this? Ultimately I'd suggest because 1. As the smallest UK network it knows it has to push the envelope to stay competitive and 2. I believe it has fully embraced the idea of becoming a mobile ISP.
You see, despite its less flattering name term of a 'Dumb Pipe', what most telcos refuse to acknowledge is you can do everything with data: calls, email, text, web surfing, downloading, the lot. What's more, with data it is essentially non-geographic. Call from your home country to any country in the world using VoIP to VoIP and an unlimited data plan and it's free. Naturally data roaming charges are another can of worms altogether but expect those to start dropping like a stone after the EC made the first cuts in December.
This really could mark a sea change in mobile telecoms...
Update 07.05.09: After some confusion in our comments section, 3 has updated its PAYG Terms & Conditions to remove the requirement for pre-pay customers to top up with credit every 90 days to maintain free Skype access. We understand - as 3 stated in the story above - that this was always the case, but it has simply been slow to amend the T&Cs.