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Netgear announces Skype Wi-Fi phone

Netgear and Skpye announced on Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a new Wi-Fi phone that will let people use Skype's free Internet calling service over a Wi-Fi network without connecting to a PC.

Most handsets designed for the Skype service require a connection to a PC, but Netgear's Skype Wi-Fi phone will work wherever a Wi-Fi Internet signal is available, including public hotspots.

The Skype software, which will be preloaded onto the new phones, pulls up the user's full contact list, displays the connection status on the phone screen, and allows the consumer to connect to any other Skype user for free. The phone will also allow users to connect to non-Skype users with the SkypeOut feature. Netgear hasn't released pricing or availability information for the new phone.

Vonage, which also uses the public Internet to deliver phone service, started selling a Wi-Fi phone in December. And EarthLink is also developing a Wi-Fi phone for its VoIP customers.

Skype, which was bought by eBay last year, announced on Tuesday a slew of other new products at CES.