Nokia Integrating 3G/WiFi Skype Access Into Handsets

Puts itself onto a collision course with every major telco...

It may seem incidental amongst the waves of ‘HD’ high end handsets being unveiled at Mobile World Congress, but could this have the biggest long term repercussions of anything announced this week…

Gearing itself up for one heck of a run in with the world’s major networks is Nokia, the world’s biggest handset maker, which has announced plans to integrate 3G and WiFi Skype access into all its handsets.

Now for those who didn’t spot it, the key word here is ‘3G’ because while most networks are increasingly happy for subscribers to use VoIP clients over WiFi the idea of losing call revenue while we’re on the move is enough to make them lightheaded. 3 is the obvious exception here which has embraced Skype, most notably with its admirable Skypephone series.

The Nokia Skype roll out will begin with the N97 in June and then become part of all subsequent Nokia N Series handsets. From there integration is expected to happen with other lines with the necessary horsepower.

“Making Skype available everywhere through mobile devices is essential to fulfilling our vision of ‘enabling the world’s conversations’,” said Skype COO Scott Durchslag. “Collaborating closely with Nokia to preload and integrate our software onto their devices will benefit the many Nokia customers who already use Skype, as it makes Skype easily accessible and simple to use on the go. It will also bring Skype new users who love Nokia’s Symbian S60 experience.”

The big question in all this is whether mobile networks around the world will have the stones to stand up to Nokia on this and take the time to strip out Skype (or at least block 3G Skype access) from every single one of the Finn’s handsets. Interestingly, a similar situation arose in April 2007 when Orange and Vodafone stripped VoIP company Truphone’s client from all Nokia N95 models but it would seem hard to repeat such regressive action over a wide range of lines in the marketplace of 2009.

On the other hand, get VoIP 3G access through and the floodgates open for all other manufacturers and what then happens to call revenue across the globe? I’ve long said the future role of mobile networks is that of a glorified ISP as everything moves to data. This could prove a massive step in that direction…

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