Skype Handsets Land at Wal-Mart

If anyone was looking for a sign that VoIP service was entering the mainstream of American culture, that sign might just be that VoIP leader Skype has just inked a deal with U.S. mega-retailer Wal-Mart to offer Skype-certified VoIP gear and pre-paid calling cards in some 1,800 Wal-Mart stores across the United States.

The deal marks the first time pre-paid Skype calling cards will be available to U.S. consumers, and offers mainstream shoppers access to headsets, handsets, and Web cams which are guaranteed to work the the Skype service. The deal is not exclusive; Skype has had a retailing deal with Radio Shack for the last year and a half, and is reportedly pleased with the results.

A $20 pre-paid card will offer international calling at rates as low as 2.1 cents per minute, while another card will offer a three-month subscription to the Skype Unlimited Calling Plan (which offers unlimited calling to standard phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada) for $8.85. Skype-certified hardware will include offerings from Plantronics, Logitech, Philips, and other brands; the Skype products will all be offered in a dedicated section.

“This relationship with Wal-Mart will increase exposure for Skype and our hardware partners in a single dedicated Internet communications section,” said Don Albert, Skype North America’s VP and general manager, in a statement. “Our research suggests that when users add a Skype Certified accessory like a headset, handset or Web cam, it greatly enhances their experience and they use Skype more to connect with family, friends, and business colleagues.”

Skype currently boasts 196 million users worldwide, and cites Telecommunications Industry Association figures reporting that almost 10 percent of all landlines in the U.S. are currently VoIP lines, with that number expected to rise to over 34 percent by 2010.

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