Mobile Skype: a threat to fixed-line telephony

Mobile Skype: a threat to fixed-line telephony

Summary: With so many mobile phones and plans in the market, it's easy for truly innovative services to get lost in the noise.This is the only reason I can think of to explain why there hasn't been a wholesale rush to mobile carrier 3, which with the launch of its X-Series content and calling bundle, recently put its boot up the collective backsides of the entire mobile industry.


With so many mobile phones and plans in the market, it's easy for truly innovative services to get lost in the noise.

This is the only reason I can think of to explain why there hasn't been a wholesale rush to mobile carrier 3, which with the launch of its X-Series content and calling bundle, recently put its boot up the collective backsides of the entire mobile industry.

The heft behind this boot is the decision by 3 to bundle Skype as one of several services in its X-Series service package.

Now, I wouldn't suggest that Skype on X-Series will kill off conventional mobile services overnight. However, it is an explicit acknowledgement that data services, and voice running over them, will drive continued telecommunications growth.

I can't help but remember how carriers went ballistic when voice over IP first appeared in the late 1990s and tried to have it declared illegal.

Even though VoIP was still a niche technology at that point, the carriers could see right away that the technology, properly executed, would loosen their grip on voice services and throw their comfortable monopolies into tumultuous chaos.

Properly executed, free mobile Skype could have the same effect on Australia's mobile market -- if 3 can get the word out to consumers.

What do you think? Would you switch to Skype if it were available on your mobile? Or are you already using it? What will make Telstra, Optus and Vodafone follow suit? Talkback below or e-mail me at

Topics: Telcos, Unified Comms, Optus, Telstra


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • But.. what about the data bundles?

    What good is Skype or any other VoIP solution packed into phones, if the data bundles are ridiculously priced?

    Although, I must admit 3 does have decent data bundles. But I doubt calls to landlines/mobiles over Skype would translate into cost savings, given the present data charges.
  • Towards base capability --> Bandwidth

    Mobile telephony has come out of traditional telephony service monopolies. The mobile phone manufacturers have pandered to this by making phones lockable as to what capabilities and functions are allowed by the service provider.

    Along with this, the service companies have made arbitrary divisions between services and charged outrageous amounts for some (for example, how much bandwidth does an SMS use, but it is charged the same as a local call?). These artificial divisions, coupled with some other tiered pricing divisions allow the construction of very obtuse call plans that make it hard to make comparisons between them.

    So what does making raw bandwidth available on a mobile do?
    1. Makes for a more equitable base capability comparison. That is, how fast and how much?
    2. Lets the user choose the balance between services.
    3. Opens the telephony market to the Internet marketplace (like lots of new players).

    This last is probably the most significant as it greatly increases the competition plus allows the possibility of loading one's own programs for the phone (if using Windows Mobile, etc).

    The 3 Skype offering (that is, within the specific Skyme minutes allowance using the 3 Skype client, separate from the general data allowance) does not include Skype-Out, but you can just download the normal Skype client and make calls to PSTN, but using the data allowance. Now that is flexibility.

    3 has always had a more enlightened data policy than others. I used to have a 3 phone and set it to poll for emails every 30 minutes. That's fine, because emails were free at the time but were going to go to 10c each. When we moved to Optus, I set up the same thing (with very little Optus support), but was shocked at the first phone bill, because I was charged per KB for each poll (1 to 2 KB each), not just for actual emails. Data-friendly ..... NOT!

    3 also do not charge to unlock the phones.
  • 3 doesn't charge for Skype calls

    Although you have a very good point -- the price of data can still be significant and would-be customers need to be careful they've considered their real needs. Orb, for example, is apparently charged against the monthly X-Series allowance - so while you can download that movie from your home PC and watch it on the phone, it's going to eat up more than a little of your bandwidth allowance.

    Competitive plans are gradually bringing this down -- it's possible to get several gigabytes per month for a very reasonable fee.

    However, by specifically marking particular services as quota-free, 3 and other carriers can really spur demand in very useful ways -- it's like what Telstra has done with its Big Pond videos and other value added content, which doesn't count towards monthly allowances. But when this is done on mobiles, it's the kind of stuff many customers will be clamouring for.
  • Skype and 3 Data Bundles

    Quick couple questions,

    Firstly, is there anyone that is using this service that could provide feedback on voice quality / dropouts etc.

    Secondly, just wanted to ask what happens if you wander outside of 3's broadband areas? Do you get charged at phenomonal data rates (not to mention the bandwidth drop)?

    Any feedback would be appreciated!
  • Follow up: Carriers' right of reply

    While writing my initial blog entry above, I asked Telstra, Optus and Vodafone how they would respond to the X-Series service. They did eventually get back to me (with pretty much the responses I expected, FWIW) so, in the name of completeness, I include their replies here:

    Telstra: "We are always interested in new applications available on 3G and Next G devices but at this stage see VoIP on mobiles as no more than a novelty. Telstra has recently introduced options such as flat 25 cent calls from mobiles to make phone calls from mobiles better value than ever before."

    Optus: "We currently offer HomeOne plans which means our Optus Consumer customers never need to pay line rental again. They can also enjoy 'yes' Time at Home which gives them 20 minutes of free calls to any Optus mobile in Australia between 8pm and midnight seven days a week."

    Vodafone: "VoIP is something that we recognise as a fairly significant shift in telecoms %u2013 a train that has left the station. It%u2019s something that we%u2019re examining from an international perspective, with various project teams from various Vodafone operating countries around the world investigating and examining the potential of it%u2026. Whenever we introduce anything to market that%u2019s new like this, we want to make sure first that we%u2019re looking after the customer experience, that everything is straightforward and easy to use, and that it wouldn%u2019t require any particular expertise on behalf of the customer. [With VoIP some would say] the jury%u2019s still out."