RealTime IT News

Skype Buys VoIP Startup

Skype beefed up its VoIP talent pool today, acquiring Sonorit Holding and its U.S. subsidiary startup Camino Networks for $27 million in stock.

Experts believe the purchase indicates that Skype, which eBay purchased for $2.5 billion in 2005, is evolving beyond a free PC-based phone application to a business-class telephone company.

Sonorit, based in San Francisco with offices in Denmark and Sweden, was formed in 2005 by ex-employees of Global IP Sound (GIPS).

Skype already uses GIPS' SoundWare product, which embeds voice processing technology for IP networks, according to Skype spokesperson Lisa Hempel. AOL, MSN and other VoIP players also use GIPS technology.

The deal, which includes 700,000 shares of eBay stock, is part of Skype's "ongoing efforts to create the best possible audio and video experience for users," Hempel said.

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Lazlo said the buy means Skype is ramping up its quality of service.

As Skype moves beyond the stage where the VoIP service was tethered to a computer and expands into a commercial offering with SkypeOut and SkypeIn services, quality of service has become a crucial factor.

Lazlo noted that Skype is trying to move closer to VoIP leader Vonage with the deal.

Also, as Microsoft, Yahoo and Google enter the Web-based VoIP market, buying the technology prevents Skype's competitors from obtaining an edge, according to Laszlo.

In March, Yahoo announced Yahoo Messenger with Voice, including Phone In and Phone Out services allowing people to make phone calls from their computers to wired and wireless phones.

Last year, Google announced GoogleTalk, its own VoIP IM service.

VoIP usage more than tripled during 2005, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

The industry group reported 4.2 million residential Voice over IP customers last year, a figure that is expected to rise to 18 million within the next three years.