Skype has opened up its beta programme to integrate existing business IP telephony systems with the popular VoIP provider's services.
The service was moved into public beta on Wednesday, following a closed beta phase that began in August.
Skype for SIP lets companies receive calls on their existing IP telephony systems from Skype users for free, apart from a monthly charge for each Skype channel — a virtual line that allows an inbound or outbound call at any given time — that they rent. The VoIP company is offering channel subscriptions at an introductory price of €4.95 (£4.48) per month.
Business customers can also use the service to make calls at Skype's rates using their existing telephony infrastructure.
Stefan Oberg, the head of Skype for Business, told ZDNet UK on Monday that around 11,000 business customers — mostly mid-sized companies — and resellers had registered their interest in Skype for SIP during the closed beta period.
"We're opening up for all of them to come in and get registered for the service, and opening the systems so that anyone can come in," Oberg said. "[Customers will] get a username and password that they can go in and plug into their PBX and they're up and running."
Oberg said several PBX vendors had been certified for interoperability with Skype for SIP, including ShoreTel, Cisco and SIPfoundry, with "more to come including the biggest ones". He said the service would become part of these companies' unified communications (UC) platforms, but added that Skype saw itself as a UC company because of its use of presence, voice, instant messaging, video and file transfer within a single client.
As for companies that still have non-IP-based legacy PBX systems, Oberg recommended that they could get a gateway from vendors such as VoSky or IndustryDynamics to make their systems interoperable with Skype for SIP.
Between 2005 and last month, Skype was owned by the online auction giant, eBay. A majority stake in the company now belongs to an investor group called Silver Lake, with other stakeholders including Skype's founders, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, eBay, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).
According to Oberg, "things are changing fast" at Skype since the change in its ownership.
Asked whether Skype's business offerings would become more prominent, now that the firm is no longer under the control of a consumer-facing owner, Oberg said it was "too early to speculate".
"Everyone can see Skype has a big potential in business and it's something that we haven't focused on so far," Oberg said. "We haven't given it the attention that matches the potential so far. My guess would be that any savvy investor will also see that potential."
Oberg declined to detail Skype's future business-oriented plans, but did say that these plans were "in the area of unified communications".
"We are working to make our current offering even more complete, so the Skype clients that you have on your desktop will be complemented by features that will make our UC offering more complete," Oberg said.