Netgear to Ship WiFi Skype Phone

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Routing and communications-gear maker Netgear has announced it plans to ship a computer-free WiFi Skype VOIP handset in the first quarter of 2006, enabling Skype users to communicate using VOIP without a computer from any location they can get wireless Internet access

The Netgear WiFi phone will come pre-loaded with Skype software and operate without a computer. Whenever a user is in a location with wireless Internet access (such as at home or at a library, cafe, or other public hotspot), they just need to enter their Skype username and password: the unit connects to the Skype network and displays the user’s full contact list (including online status) and displays the user’s connection status. Like the computer-based version of Skype, Skype users can talk to each other using VOIP for free, and call traditional phone numbers for a small fee using the SkypeOut service.

“By collaborating with NETGEAR, Skype’s reach is extended to a new, important consumer platform. This new phone allows Skype to offer its global users improved mobility,” said James Bilefield, Skype’s VP of business development. “Simplicity and style were two qualities we looked for in a mobile phone and NETGEAR’s new device will offer both to Skype users.”

“Customers can now call anyone on Skype, anywhere in the world for free without using a PC anytime they are connected to WiFi. We’re extremely proud to deliver the world’s first mobile phone enabling customers to enjoy all the benefits of Skype,” said Patrick Lo, NETGEAR’s chairman and CEO.

No pricing or availability details have been announced. Skype was recently acquired by online auctionhouse eBay.