29th October 2007 – Skype, the global Internet communications company and 3, the mobile operator, have launched a new affordable handset that lets you make free Skype to Skype calls and send free Skype instant messages from your mobile phone to other Skype users no matter where they are.
The 3 Skypephone is a fully-featured 3G Internet phone with Skype built-in. In addition to Skype calls the phone makes conventional calls and can be used to access 3’s broad range of other internet services.
3 customers using the 3 Skypephone will be able to make Skype calls and send instant messages on the move with the push of a button. This is the first time an operator has offered a mass market device which is tailor-made for free calling over the internet from a mobile. Now, all of Skype’s 246 million registered can be reached for free with the 3 Skypephone. ...
No more technical details were given. But the mobile Skype calls on the 3Skypephone are basically GSM phone calls, since it's the iSkoot service which is powering them. The day after the launch iSkoot could send out their own press release:
„CAMBRIDGE, MA – October 30, 2007 – iSkoot today announced that it has been selected by Skype to help power the 3 Skypephone – the first ever mass-market Skype-enabled mobile handset. ..."
This means that Skype calls from the 3Skypephone aren't 3G VoIP calls. They are GSM calls from the phone to the 3-iSkoot server, which then cannels them over the fixed line internet to Skype. The data connection is only used to show the presence of the Skype buddies.
The 3Skypephone doesnt really do any mobile VoIP, since it uses Skype only in the fixed line part of the call. The bad voice quality, that for instance Luca critizes, is not because of unreliable 3G coverage. Possible causes are the low sound quality of the GSM codecs or transcoding issues at a gateway level. Yet still iSkoot is a nifty solution to guarantee Skype coverage nearly everywhere.
That's also why their FAQ list says:
Q: Will it work on 2G, 2.5G& 3G networks?
A: Wherever you have coverage in the UK, Skype will work. If you can make a normal voice call, you will be able to make a Skype Call.
Now it's also obvious why the technology doesn't work outside of the 3 network: It relies on free on net calls from the 3Skypephone to the 3-iSkoot server. Luca said that "if you are roaming (in Italy in some places you are under Tim coverage and not 3) Skype calls don’t work".
The 3Skypephone is no new invention but just another marketing skin for iSkoot. Take that TIME magazine if you want to elect your next "Invention Of the Year". ;)