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3 Offers Free, Unconditional Skype Access On Phones

Gordon Kelly

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3 Offers Free, Unconditional Skype Access On Phones

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."

Will we now see the Skype integrated Nokia N97 on 3 following its crazy veto by O2 and Orange? It would seem a good bet.

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.

Link:

Press Release

lifethroughalens

April 23, 2009, 7:27 pm

Well done 3!





I bet there's some scratching of heads at O2 and Vodafone HQ today :)





However, until the Skype software is fully integrated into the OS of the phone and is very simple and reliable to use (and update), I doubt that there will be, in all reality, that many users of this service. Most people I know are still stressing out and confused about using Skype on their computers!





And let's face it, 3G network coverage and reliability pretty much sucks even on the big two networks, especially if you traveling at the time of the conversation (ie not static with full signal strength). Still it's a good cheap PR exercise with a practical use for people willing to give it a try.

rav

April 23, 2009, 7:46 pm

Think I'll be heading out to bag an INQ each for me and the mrs. Wanted to get one for a while and this is as good an excuse as any.





What a brave and courageous move. They defintely deserve more success.

Aetheric

April 23, 2009, 7:53 pm

I'm truly and honestly shocked. The CEO must have balls the size of the moon.





This is the best news I've heard all day. How long will it be before other telcos follow suit in a bid to retain customers?

theory28

April 23, 2009, 7:58 pm

Its an interesting proposition, but it makes me wonder how sustainable it is for them long term.





I have heard recently that branch managers of 3 stores have been told they need to re-sign their contracts before june that effectively state they must take a 12% pay cut or leave.





the path to being a truly Mobile ISP seems like it will be a bloody one, indeed...





but from a consumer perspective - hey, say hello to unhindered skype and goodbye to pricey international calls to family abroad!

lifethroughalens

April 23, 2009, 8:24 pm

Extra Info - Just contacted 3... if you buy a sim card only from 3 @&#1639.99, you have to top up your account with a minimum of &#16310 every 3 months in order 'to activate' the free skype to skype stuff - weather or not you have used any credit.





Normal data is charged at 10p per megabyte on the same PAYG sim - they didn't know what unit data use was rounded up to. (ie if you use 8Kb do they round up to 10Kb, if you use 80Kb do they round up to 100Kb etc... or if they actually add up actual received data).





I am not a fan of paying per MB on data - they always screw you over with charges for failed loading web pages and crashed web browsers just after the page loads...can get expensive. Other than that, you'll be looking at a 12-24 month contract.

Xiphias

April 23, 2009, 8:35 pm

&#1633.33 a month minimum spend then, so much for unconditional eh?





Somebody should make a dictionary throwing machine so we can use it on all these lying phone/broadband companies.

Jay4d0

April 23, 2009, 8:59 pm

@ lifethroughalens


I may be mistaken but that was their old skype deal and this is the new one replacing that one and it will be introduced in a couple of weeks so thats will be why you were told that.

lifethroughalens

April 23, 2009, 9:20 pm

@Jay


You might be right mate, i did explain clearly that i was talking about the new offer announced today, not any one before this.





Still she seemed confident enough that she knew what i was on about and gave me that info. But from many hours bitter experience, i know you can't trust call centre staff, from any company, anywhere...about anything, ever, in the world.





:-)

Justin064

April 24, 2009, 6:20 pm

@lifethroughalens


This is the current offer, the new skype one hasnt been introduced yet, it starts on the 1st May





Free Skype to Skype 3G Mobile Calls and Instant Messages





23rd April , 2009





Europe UK : In a world first, 3 UK is opening up its network to allow anyone with a 3 SIM and a compatible handset to enjoy unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messages without ever having to pay.





From 1 May, there will be no data charges or top-up fees for either contract or pay-as-you-go customers who use Skype on 3&#8217s UK network. Anyone with a 3 Skype-enabled handset will be able to buy a 3 SIM and talk as much as they want to other Skype users without ever having to pay another penny.





During the summer, 3 will expand its offer making it possible for anyone with a compatible unlocked 3G handset in the UK, to take advantage of free Skype calls, whether or not their phone is from 3. Anyone that wants to talk on a mobile for free will be able to use a Skype-enabled 3 SIM to make and receive totally free Skype-to-Skype calls and to use Skype&#8217s instant messaging (IM).





By removing these key barriers to Skype-to-Skype calls, 3 UK is creating a compelling reason for new customers to join 3 and to enjoy all the products and services available on the UK&#8217s biggest mobile broadband network.





Kevin Russell, Chief Executive Officer of 3 UK, said:





&#8220Communication through the internet is exploding. 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.





&#8220In 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&#8217t 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.&#8221





Josh Silverman, President of Skype said:





&#8220Demand for mobile access from our users has never been higher. 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.





&#8220We 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.&#8221





Currently, 3 UK&#8217s growing Skype community enjoys 1.5 million minutes of free Skype-to-Skype calls every day. The launch of the first 3 Skypephone in October 2007 really kick-started the growth of free internet calling on the 3 network. With over 433 million people registered on Skype worldwide, the new free Skype-to-Skype offer from 3 opens up a world of free calling.





Two years experience of providing open access to Skype-to-Skype calling has enabled 3 and Skype to better understand the behaviour of mobile Skype users. Success with an easy-to-use Skype experience on more specialised internet-enabled handsets, such as the INQ1 and the 3 Skypephone collection; has proven to 3 that enabling customers to make free Skype calls to other Skype users on their mobiles or PCs is a real benefit.





3 UK has found that regular Skype users:





* Are less likely to churn than non-Skype users


* Use more traditional voice minutes than non-Skype users in addition to calling their Skype contacts


* Use Skype IM, but also send more SMS than non-Skype users


* Are more likely to browse the internet on their mobile


* Are higher margin customers


* Are twice as likely to access social networking sites as non-Skype customers





&#8220Today we are moving in a clear direction towards making Skype-to-Skype calling available to all UK mobile consumers,&#8221 said Mr Russell. &#8220We know that Skype users are instinctive communicators, keen social networkers and mobile internet users. They love the things that we are building the UK&#8217s biggest mobile broadband network for.





&#8220Our network is built to deliver the benefits of the internet to the mobile. That&#8217s why we&#8217re removing the conditions and restrictions from our current Skype offer and opening up the opportunity to try free internet calling to all UK mobile users, whether they are currently with us or a competitor network.&#8221

lifethroughalens

April 24, 2009, 11:08 pm

You see? A prime example - you can't trust anything that comes out of the mouth of a call center agent!





The best bit that will really shake it up:





"During the summer, 3 will expand its offer making it possible for anyone with a compatible unlocked 3G handset in the UK, to take advantage of free Skype calls, whether or not their phone is from 3. Anyone that wants to talk on a mobile for free will be able to use a Skype-enabled 3 SIM to make and receive totally free Skype-to-Skype calls and to use Skype&#8217s instant messaging (IM)."

Nick 11

May 16, 2009, 11:47 pm

I called 3 today looking to change deals specifically to take advantage of the Skype calls and was told quite clearly that these were for international calls only - not UK calls.





This is not at all clear in the marketting. If you call a Skype contact in the UK, from the UK you will be charged for it. Nothing free about that.

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