Can mobile operators out-Skype Skype?

If you can’t beat Skype, you might as well join Skype–at least that’s what Kineto Wireless is proposing to mobile operators. The fixed mobile convergence (FMC) software developer today announced a VoIP client for smartphones that allows mobile operators to offer a cheap IP phone calls over WiFi.

Why would mobile operators want to cannibalize their own voice revenues? According to Kineto marketing vice president, they don’t, but when faced with competing services like Skype or Truphone, which offer cheap international calling via their global voice networks, carriers stand to make no money at all on what would normally be pricey long distance calls. By offering their own VoIP-over-WiFi service they can take back some of that business from the competitive IP calling providers. The alternative is for operators to drastically lower their long distance rates, which Shaw doubts many of them are inclined to do.

“Think of it like a calling card,” Shaw said. “Operators could just charge calling-card rates over their regular long distance services, but they don’t. They don’t want to cut off that potential source of revenue.”

It’s not a service that operators will want to offer to all of their customers, he said. But there is definitely a subset of users that rack up heavy international usage that would never dream of using their regular cellular service to connect those calls due the enormous cost. Many of those customers might still favor a Skype or Truphone because they’ll likely undercut the operators in price per VoIP minute, but operators do have some inherent advantages, Shaw said. They can integrate their clients more fully into their handsets and portfolio of services, for instance, embedding VoIP calling options into the phone’s onboard contact list or combining voicemail from VoIP and circuit-switched calls into a single mailbox.

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