SteveManorVerizon to allow Skype calls over wireless network

Verizon Wireless will allow the customers to use the Internet phone service Skype to make free calls on some phones, an application that wireless carriers have been slow to allow.

Under a deal announced Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, users of some Verizon phones who have a voice and data plan will be able to download a free Skype application in late March. That will let them call or instant-message other Skype users for free or call regular phone numbers outside the United States for a fee paid to Skype. These calls would go over Verizon’s network and would not use up minutes on a cell phone plan.

However, Minutes would be deducted to use Skype to cal regular phone numbers in the US, according to Verizon.

Initially, the mobile application will be available for nine Verizon phones, including several BlackBerry models and Motorola Inc.’s Droid and upcoming Devour handsets.

According to Verizon’s chief marketing officer John Stratton, the application will be able to run all the time in the background. This means other people should be able to contact you through Skype even if your phone is on standby.

Other wireless carriers have blocked the Skype app from running all the time. It’s available on the iPhone only in Wi-Fi hot spots. In October, AT&T said it would relent and let the program work over its cellular network as well, but Skype has not yet released an application to enable that. Verizon’s version of Skype mobile will not work over Wi-Fi, the companies said.

Skype CEO Josh Silverman in an interview said, working directly with Verizon let Skype do things it couldn’t, such as integrating its service with a phone so Skype is built into the address book.

Originally, wireless carriers feared giving customers a way to avoid using voice minutes in their cell phone plans.

Now the companies are recognizing the value of customers who pay extra for data service. When the carriers “see how popular Skype is with American consumers they realize by offering Skype they can attract more customers,” according to Silverman.

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