Skype coming to Japanese cell phones

The potentially major deal will extend to broadband, cable TV and fixed-line customers

Skype has tied up with one of Japan's largest telecommunications companies in a deal that will see its Internet telephony service offered on cell phones and to broadband, fixed line and cable TV customers.

The deal is potentially the largest Skype has done so far in Japan and ties it with KDDI, a carrier second only to NTT in terms of customers and reach. KDDI operates the country's number two cellular network, has a vast fixed line business that reaches millions of consumers and businesses, operates a nationwide fibre-to-the-home network, and holds stakes in the country's dominant WiMax and cable TV operators.

The first fruits of the tie-up will come next month when the first two cell phones with Skype are put on sale. The IS01 and IS03 smartphones are based on the Android operating system and Skype will be rolled out to other Android and Brew-based handsets in 2011, the companies said in a statement.

At launch the companies are planning a promotion with unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls at no charge. After the promotion is over voice calls made via Skype from the handsets will be routed over KDDI's voice network and incur charges. This is similar to Skype's tie-up with Verizon in the U.S.

KDDI's cellular service, which is marketed under the "au" brand name, had 32 million customers at the end of September.

"We look forward to working closely with Skype to extend these benefits beyond mobile to broadband, fixed line and cable, and thereby maximise the satisfaction of our customers in every area of our business," said KDDI senior vice president, Takashi Tanaka, in a statement.

The companies didn't provide a time frame for this expansion.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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