3 opens up paid, international Skype functionality

Subscribers of 3 with supported handsets will be allowed to use their mobile Skype clients to make cheap calls to landlines and mobiles around the world

Many customers of the operator 3 will soon be able to use the mobile version of Skype to call landlines and mobiles around the world.

For almost two years, Skype and 3 have had a tie-in that allowed 3 customers with Skype-enabled phones to make free Skype-to-Skype calls and send free instant messages using the client. But that deal did not allow calls from Skype to landlines and mobiles, as is possible on the desktop. Tuesday's announcement makes that functionality available on certain handsets.

Skype calls to international landline and mobile numbers are typically cheaper than those made from ordinary phone accounts.

The functionality will become available from Wednesday, according to a 3 spokeswoman, who said 3 subscribers with supported handsets would be sent a text message including a link through which their client can be upgraded.

Kevin Russell, 3 UK's chief executive, claimed in a statement that 3's customers already had "the best-value international-calling tariffs in the UK", but conceded that customers remained "apprehensive about using their mobiles to call internationally, especially as international minutes aren't typically included in mobile calling bundles".

"Giving 3 customers more ways to discover paid Skype offerings to call mobiles and landlines abroad will open up a new world via your mobile," Russell suggested.