Verizon Wireless Partners With Skype

fromKQED

Verizon cell phone users may soon have unlimited minutes due to a new deal with the Internet phone company Skype. The two are partnering to allow Skype calls to go through on Verizon Wireless smartphones starting in March.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Verizon Wireless is helping to gain ground in the smartphone wars. Yesterday, the company said it will allow its smartphone customers to make calls on its network using the popular Internet calling service, Skype.

From member station KQED in San Francisco, Stephanie Martin reports.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: Starting in March, Verizon users with 3G smartphones like BlackBerrys and Motorola Droids can use Skype to make their phone calls. But those calls won't be charged against their monthly minutes. Instead, unlimited air time will be covered under Verizon data plans. Skype-to-Skype calls won't rack up any minutes at all. Skype-to-non-Skype calls will be as cheap as two cents a minute. Up until now, Skype wasnt available on U.S. cell phone networks.

Mr. JOEL KELSEY (Publisher, Consumers Union): You know, any deal that brings more functionality to wireless consumers means good things.

MARTIN: Joel Kelsey is publisher of Consumers Union, the nonprofit behind Consumer Reports.

Mr. KELSEY: This is a deal that will allow consumers to use the phones over their Verizon network if they're a Verizon subscriber, in a way that they weren't able to before. And so, you know, we view that as a positive thing.

MARTIN: Verizon is hoping the Skype partnership will fend off competition from AT&T. Skype is available over the iPhone, but it currently only works on WiFi and not the 3G network. Verizon might lose out at first as customers avoid making traditional permanent calls, but it's betting that the deal will ultimately coax more people into purchasing smartphones with the Verizon data plans.

For NPR News, I'm Stephanie Martin in San Francisco.

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