Ukrainian mobile operator Intertelekom has given its subscribers a new way to access Skype with no need for a data plan. No activation fee is charged; customers just need to send a free SMS to receive a login. The calling rate is UAH 0.25 (US $0.03) per minute. The service was introduced on a permanent basis for the operator’s WLL (wireless local loop) and mobile subscribers.
We find this to be a truly remarkable and commendable initiative on the part of an MNO to turn the OTT challenge to its own advantage. Intertelekom is offering customers who do not have data on their phones a way to make Skype voice calls, for a small fee. In other words, Intertelekom is allowing non-smartphone users (or those without data plans) to access VoIP via 3G, apparently providing the internet part of the connection itself.
This innovative plan is truly an “if you can’t beat them, join them” strategy to reduce revenue loss to Skype, the leading provider of OTT services. Given that non-smartphone users are ordinarily unable to make Skype calls on their basic phones, Intertelekom has cleverly identified a potential customer base that they can charge for access. While the provider will not be taking money out of Skype’s pocket or poaching its customers, it will be able to make money every time a subscriber to this service uses Skype.
We have two questions about this service: Will Intertelekom end up cannibalizing its international-calling business by letting users phone out of the Ukraine for only US $0.03 a minute rather than at regular voice calling rates? And will the quality of the connection over 3G be satisfactory? Time will tell.