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Skype expands Access service to over 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots

skype-large-logoThis year’s Mobile World Conference (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain may be dominated by tablets and smartphones, but  Skype found some space to squeeze in an announcement about its Wi-Fi service, Skype Access. The popular VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) provider announced that it plans on expanding its partnerships to cover over 500,000 locations around the world. Skype Access previously is available at around 200,000 locations.

Skype Access allows users to connect to a pay-as-go Wi-Fi hotspot on a per minute basis. Skype plans to cover 500 airports, some 30,000 hotels and other locations. Rates will vary from location to location and range between $0.05 and $0.19 per minute.

The service should prove to be popular among travelers who are used to getting stuck paying for expensive Wi-Fi access per hour or per day just to fire off a few e-mails while waiting in an airport. And, if you happen to find yourself in Barcelona in between now and February 18, you’ll be able to check out Skype Access for free.

The list of international partners include: BT Openzone, M3 Connect, Fon, Row 44, Skyrove, Spectrum Interactive, Tomizone and Vex.

Skype also announced a plan to bring its VoIP service to more smartphones — especially those on networks with weak 3G coverage — through an expansion to its Mobile Partner Program. As part of the program, Skype will offer to pre-load a version of its Skype app onto handsets.

“The versions of Skype delivered through this program are optimised for efficient bandwidth usage, keeping you connected with minimal impact on battery life and data usage,” Skype said in a blog post. Skype launched a similar program in 2010, offering a version of its mobile app on select Verizon devices.