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Verizon will add Skype to handsets

Bloomberg News / February 17, 2010

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SAN FRANCISCO - Verizon Wireless, the largest US mobile-phone carrier, will include Skype Technologies SA’s calling service on handsets such as the BlackBerry to fend off competition from AT&T Inc.

The service will work on Verizon’s third-generation network, on phones including Motorola Inc.’s Droid and Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry Storm, Verizon and Skype said yesterday. Customers need a data plan to use the service.

Verizon Wireless is relying on 3G data plans for growth as demand slows for voice calls. Teaming up with Skype could draw new users. Last year, Skype started a service for Apple Inc.’s iPhone, offered by AT&T exclusively in the United States.

“What mobile operators are realizing is they can gain great benefits by partnering with Skype,’’ its chief executive, Josh Silverman, said on Bloomberg Television. “Over 15 percent of all iPhones now have Skype downloaded on it, so there’s huge demand.’’ Skype sees “explosive growth’’ potential from the mobile industry, he said.

The Verizon agreement sets the stage for similar deals with other carriers, Vanessa Alvarez, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan in Boston, said last week.

AT&T’s iPhone subscribers can use the Skype service only in WiFi hotspots. Skype says a version of Skype for the iPhone that works over AT&T’s 3G network is coming soon.

Skype is owned by investors led by the private equity firm Silver Lake. EBay Inc., its former owner, retains 30 percent.