Mobile

Verizon and Skype partner for 3G-enabled Skype mobile

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Not too long after Apple dropped its VoIP restrictions on the iPhone, we reported that Skype was eagerly working on a 3G-enabled version of its iPhone application. Now we’ve learned that Verizon and Skype have teamed up for a 3G-enabled version of Skype mobile on several of its smartphones as well.

Verizon smartphone customers will now be able to make unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls, as well as SkypeOut calls to any phone number using Skype’s reduced rates. And of course, Skype mobile will allow users to instant message their Skype friends and view their online status.

The move is clearly a response to Apple’s announcement — but whatever the reason, consumers are winning out. Just a year ago, it would have seemed impossible for mobile carriers to allow VoIP over 3G on smartphones. Now, it’s to be expected. I won’t be surprised if Sprint and T-Mobile make similar announcements soon.

Unlike Apple and AT&T’s announcements allowing VoIP over 3G, Skype is the only VoIP app that’s approved to work on Verizon’s 3G network. This leaves other VoIP applications like Fring out in the cold for now. The move is still a big step for Verizon — a carrier that has traditionally been very restrictive with its network. It’s an important change in the company’s attitude, and it shows that it may further relax 3G restrictions down the line.

The new Skype mobile will be available for Verizon smartphones in March. Initial smartphones that will support the app include the BlackBerry Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Curve 8330, Curve 8530, 8830 World Edition and Tour 9630 smartphones, as well as Droid by Motorola, Droid Eris by HTC and Motorola Devour, according to Verizon.