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3 gives away free calls -- if you're on Skype

In an evolutionary new business model involving giving away phone calls and not asking anyone to pay for them, 3 is offering unlimited free use of Skype

3 appears to have gone completely crazy, offering unlimited free calls to Skype users on its network.

Skype is the leading VoIP service,which allows you to make free phone calls over the Internet to other Skype users. 3 has added the function to some of its phones, and this news removes any of the data cost from connecting via the Web.

All you'll need is a 3 SIM costing £1.99, and a Skype-compatible mobile phone, such as the original 3 Skypephone or INQ 1. From 1 May, you'll pay no data charges or top-up fees for Skype calls and instant messaging. Standard calls and texts will have to be paid for as normal.

SkypeOut -- using Skype to call non Skype-numbers, such as mobiles or landlines -- is also supported, and involves buying credit from Skype rather than 3.

Kevin Russell, CEO of 3 UK, suggests that the day is coming when you will be able to get "a 3 SIM for unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls for less than the price of a cup of coffee and talk for as much as you want without ever paying us another penny." Sounds ruddy brilliant. He added, "We won't ask you for a top-up or a monthly commitment," before wandering off and handing the contents of his wallet, pockets and sock drawer to passers-by.

Obviously, what you get out of this deal will depend on how many of your friends and family are Skype users, but with 433 million users, the idea of never paying for a phone call ever again sounds good to us.