Skype Talks at Boingo Hotspots

By Eric Griffith

July 12, 2005

The VoIP provider has built a version of its software into the Boingo Wireless client to give users better access while on the road.

Using Skype at hotspots isn't new. Anyone with the popular telephony software and a high-speed Internet connection can make calls over the Internet while at a hotspot. But Skype wants to give its 45 million users an easier (and relatively cheap) way to get access to such connections while traveling.

For $7.95 a month, the new Skype Zones Powered by Boingo offering will give users of the voice over IP (VoIP) service full access to calls while at any of the 18,000 hotspots affiliated with Boingo Wireless around the world.

"This is designed as a Skype-only service," says David Hagan, president and CEO of Boingo. To get full access for Web surfing, e-mail, instant messaging, etc., Boingo expects you to pony up $22 a month for its full, unlimited access service.

Skype Zones has its own software. It is essentially the Boingo client, complete with a directory of Boingo locations built in, but with Skype's VoIP software also integrated. There's no need to launch a separate program to make Skype-based calls.

Skype Zones is currently limited to users of the Microsoft Windows operating system. Niklas Zennstrvm, Skype CEO and co-founder, says, "no release plans are announced for other platforms, but that is our objective."

Skype Zones, which is currently still in beta, will also have a two-hour fee option for $2.95, for those who don't travel as much.

The fees for Skype Zones do not include calls made to standard phone lines (SkypeOut) or calls to you from those same lines (SkypeIn). Zennstrvm says that each one of those is an additional service with separate costs, but that both are easily used through the Skype Zones software.

The deal is not exclusive for either company. "If Skype needs to do hotspot operator agreements where Boingo does not have coverage, it can, and Boingo is free to work with other voice over IP providers," says Hagan.

And Boingo is not new to the VoIP world. The company had a deal with Vonage for co-marketing last year. Hagan says that the Boingo/Vonage relationship is still in place, but there is no current activity in their co-marketing.

Boingo does not operate any hotspots itself, but is an aggregator of Wi-Fi networks. Last month, the company added 3,400 hotspots to its footprint in a deal with SBC Communications to include SBC's FreedomLink locations, which are found at Barnes & Noble bookstores, Caribou Coffee locations, UPS Stores, and elsewhere.

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