Skype has partnered with Netgear to produce an 802.11g wireless mobile handset with an inbuilt Skype client.
The SPH101 allows for the making of Skype calls independently of a PC or notebook running a Skype client so long as users are in range of an 802.11g wireless network.
Netgear senior network technical consultant Jeff Fulton said the handset was a major improvement on current Skype handsets which required a wired connection to a PC running a Skype client.
While the SPH101 was likely to appeal to consumers and SOHO users initially, Fulton said much of the handsets appeal lay in the potential of its future iterations.
Next generation handsets were expected to be based on the 802.11n standard to give greater wireless range, and battery life was also expected to be upgraded from the current 24 hours of standby and three hours of talk-time.
The handset's current lack of 3G capabilities - for seamless transition between telco coverage areas to Skype coverage areas - was however one sticking point for the potential of the venture.
“Handset manufacturers are not interested in integrating a cellular phone with a Skype phone as the carriers are not interested,” he said. “The carriers are not interested as [most] Skype calls are free.”
Fulton said the current model did also not allow for Web browsing, but this was also an area for consideration in future models.
“There is no browser function as users could access other web-based phones services and Skype saw that as a threat,” he said. “But with Ebay’s purchase of Skype there is plenty of potential for things like mobile Ebay where to check your bid or listing.”
IDC telecommunications analyst Shing Quah said while the handset had potential for SOHO and consumer users, business adoption would be limited due to the slow roll-out of wireless hotspots around the country.
"Business adoption of Skype has been ad-hoc [to date]," she said. "Small business may see a way to cut down on phone bills but IT managers in larger organisations have more stringent policies so they may be concerned about security loopholes [in Skype]."
The SPH101 – which is expected in stores within the next two months – will be distributed by Ingram Micro, Tecksel and Express Online and Synnex. The street price is expected to be $400, Fulton said.
Skype and Netgear offer wireless Skype phone
By Tim Lohman on Jul 25, 2006 9:43AM