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U.K. operators may strip Skype from Nokia devices

Two U.K. wireless operators may refuse to carry Nokia phones that have the Skype VoIP calling feature built-in.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

It looks like the deal to embed Skype clients on Nokia phones is meeting some resistance among wireless operators and could dampen the scope of the planned integration.

The Web site Mobiletoday.co.uk reported earlier this week that sources at O2 and Orange say the companies are "furious" that Nokia plans to pre-load the new high-end N97 smartphone with Skype, which allows users to make free calls over the Internet using a data connection.

The carriers may refuse to carry phones with the Skype feature embedded. Instead, they may insist on selling only Nokia phones without the Skype feature, the Web site said.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile appears to be supporting the offer. And 3, another U.K. operator, is already offering a phone with an embedded Skype client.

Earlier this month, Skype announced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009 in Barcelona that it had struck a deal to embed its software onto Nokia devices, starting with the N97, which goes on sale on June. The Skype feature is expected to start shipping on the device in the third quarter of 2009.

The plan is for Skype services to be integrated into the N97 address book, enabling users to see when Skype contacts are online. It will also let people use Skype's instant-messaging client. And of course, N97 users will also be able to make free and low-cost phone calls over the Internet whether they are on a 3G cellular network or a Wi-Fi network.

But now it looks like wireless operators, such as O2 and Orange, are not happy about Nokia adding a service that potentially siphons off voice traffic and weakens the carriers' relationships with the customers.

Nokia wouldn't confirm nor would it deny that that the operators have complained about the Skype feature. But a spokesman for the company admitted that the Skype feature won't likely be available on all N97 phones.

"At Mobile World Congress we announced that Skype would be available on a limited number of N-series devices, beginning with the N97," the spokesman said. "But there is a possibility it won't be on every N97."