Skype Calls on Wal-Mart

In a sign of the increasing popularity of VoIP  phone
service, Skype announced a distribution deal with the giant Wal-Mart chain
of stores this week.

Under the agreement, the voice communications area of
1,800 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. will carry Skype-certified hardware,
including headsets, webcams, and handsets designed to work with Skype, the
popular Internet phone service provider.

Wal-Mart will also now carry the
first line of pre-paid calling cards for Skype available in the U.S.

A Skype spokesperson said the deal is not exclusive, and the company is
pleased with a distribution deal launched in 2005 that it has with Radio
Shack stores. “The significance of this deal is that it’s the first time
Skype has worked with a major retailer on a dedicated section for hardware
and pre-paid calling cards,” she said.

“This deal came together not only
because of our own interest in promoting our brand and our partners, but
because Wal-Mart  is also interested in the growing
community of Internet users,” added the spokesperson.

She said that while Skype made the overall deal with Wal-Mart, the
individual hardware suppliers participating are dealing directly with
Wal-Mart as to selection of products and sales terms.

Up to nine different
Skype Certified hardware products are now available within the Skype
Internet Communications sections at Wal-Mart stores’ electronics department.
The selection includes Skype certified headsets under $15, webcams under $25
and handsets under $30 from brand names such as Plantronics, Philips,
Logitech and others.

“We have taken a sharp focus to launch the products and brands that
consumers are moving toward at the most affordable prices,” said Kevin O’Connor, vice president and general merchandise manager, Wal-Mart
Electronics, in a statement.

“The Skype hardware and pre-paid cards are a
great fit with Wal-Mart because they offer long-term money-saving solutions
at the right time for many customers — parents, grandparents, college
students and military families,” said O’Connor.

Skype offers a year long unlimited
calling
plan for $29.95. The pre-paid calling cards at Wal-Mart include
a new three-month subscription to the Skype Unlimited Calling Plan for
$8.85. This subscription gives consumers three months of unlimited Skype
calls to any landline or cell phone number in the U.S. and Canada.

Another
prepaid ($20) card can be redeemed for Skype credit to make inexpensive
international calls at rates the company said can be as low as 2.1 cents per
minute.

Skype has been reaching out in many directions to expand its presence.
Earlier this month the company announced a deal with Salesforce.com.

About 9.9 percent of all landlines in the U.S. were VoIP lines in 2006, but that
figure is expected to rise to 34.1 percent by 2010, according to the
Telecommunications Industry Association. VoIP pioneer and market leader
Skype, an eBay  company, said it has more than 196
million registered users around the world.

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