Netgear, Skype Team on Mobile VoIP

By David Needle

January 04, 2006

UPDATED: Companies work jointly on family of VoIP-enabled handsets and router.

UPDATED: Netgear announced today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it is working with VoIP leader Skype on a wireless mobile phone designed for Internet telephony.

Netgear and Skype made the announcement today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the new phone was demonstrated.

Netgear has been in discussions with Skype for quite a while over teaming up. "In fact, the acquisition by eBay slowed things up a bit, but they saw this is a good partnership," Ron Provencio, Netgear's product line manager for Skype phone products, told internetnews.com.

The initial handset will be a distinctive white and silver. Otherwise, it has standard cell phone features, about a three hour battery life or 50 hours on standby. Later units will include a microphone for conference calling. Provencio said there are plans to offer service to landline phones in the second half of this year.

The advantage of calling via the Internet with Skype on a mobile handset is the same as using a PC -- free domestic and international calls, as well as the ability to host conference calls and chat with other Skype users worldwide. There is a small charge per call for talking to non-Skype users.

The Netgear phone will be pre-loaded with Skype's software and ready to be used with a wireless network, the companies said. After turning on the phone, users enter a Skype username and password.

Skype software then pulls up the user's full contact list, displays the connection status on the phone screen, and once connection is confirmed, calls to any other Skype user can be made.

"This is one of many new technology gold rushes out there," Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told internetnews.com.

Kay said he thinks the pairing of Netgear and Skype is a good fit, though he wants to see more details, such as the price of the phone, before judging its likely success. Pricing has not been announced.

Kay also points to one major potential cloud on the otherwise sunny outlook for VoIP businesses of all kinds.

"At some point, the government may decide to tax VoIP calls because the wired providers can argue it's unfair competition and their business is being threatened. So if there's a tax, the calls aren't going to be quite so free and that will likely change a lot of business plans."

"By collaborating with Netgear, Skype's reach is extended to a new, important consumer platform," said James Bilefield, vice president of business development for Skype, in a statement. "This new phone allows Skype to offer its global users improved mobility."

In addition to the Skype Wi-Fi phone, Netgear and Skype announced that the Netgear RangeMax Wireless Router with "Smart MIMO" technology, will be equipped to optimize Skype.

Netgear said its RangeMax routers have a unique ability to dynamically avoid interference from neighboring wireless networks and eliminate dead spots to maintain reliable, high-performance, long-range network connections to each client.

An October report from Jupiter Research forecasts that by 2010, 20.4 million U.S. households will subscribe to some form of Internet-based broadband phone service. (Jupiter Research is owned by the same company as internetnews.com.)

Originally published on .

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