SkypeOut's big touch-tone recognition problem

Last week, colleague Ben Charny had an interesting conversation with Skype CEO Niklas Zennström. Ben pressed Zennström on some quality of service issues he's been hearing about, especially on the SkypeOut service.

Last week, colleague Ben Charny had an interesting conversation with Skype CEO Niklas Zennström.

Ben pressed Zennström on some quality of service issues he's been hearing about, especially on the SkypeOut service. That's Skype's offering that lets you call non-Skype numbers anywhere in the world for just a few pennies.

I read Zennström's comments from at least two perspectives: as part of my job, and as a Skype user myself.

Ben pressed Zennström on call-quality issues. I have been experiencing some of the same issues. SkypeOut seems to have an awful time replicating the tones that some customer service systems use for navigation. For example, the other day I used SkypeOut to check my bank and credit card balances. In your average seven or 10-number string, the error rate was as high as one-third. I don't have this problem with some of the other VoIP providers I use.

Zennström's responses were along the lines of:

We're new, so give us time to work things out.

We're working on it.

As broadband speeds increase, call quality will improve.

While all three points are valid, Skype isn't there yet. So if you do any outbound calling that requires you to navigate through touch-tone phone menus, SkypeOut should be a secondary option for you at best.