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Skype, Boingo tie up in phone deal

Hot spot provider and VoIP operator to announce deal Tuesday, underscoring the collision course of Net-based phoning and Wi-Fi.

VoIP provider Skype and wireless hot spot operator Boingo Wireless will unveil a new initiative Tuesday that combines each company's respective technologies.

Skype is among the most popular providers of voice over Internet Protocol software for making inexpensive or free phone calls using the Internet. Boingo Wireless, founded by EarthLink creator Sky Dayton, makes available Wi-Fi technology to dispense high-speed Internet access (it's currently used in about 13,000 locations).

Additional details of the two companies' efforts weren't forthcoming Monday. The companies have planned a conference call for Tuesday morning to discuss the deal, the first between the two.

The dealings underscore the collision course of Net-based phoning and Wi-Fi, the popular wireless standard used to distribute broadband inside thousands of homes, retail outlets, restaurants and cafes, and in public areas. Typically, VoIP subscribers use a wired phone line, whether a single home phone or any number of phones in an office setting. But many service providers see an opportunity to create wireless versions of their services using Wi-Fi. Introducing the appropriate VoIP services and technology could turn hot spots into giant phone booths.

While this is Skype's first deal with Boingo, the hot spot aggregator is no stranger to VoIP. Earlier this year, New Jersey-based Vonage, the world's largest commercial VoIP operator and Boingo Wireless agreed to co-market each other's services. Boingo said it is working with handset makers to integrate its software into Wi-Fi-ready phones.