Skype alights on Broadreach hotspots

Anyone with a wireless-ready device can now use Broadreach hotspots for free to make Skype voice calls, which are also free.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one. Broadreach has configured its hotspots to recognise the Skype protocol and allow that traffic to connect. Any of the Skype services – eg instant messaging – can be used in this way.

BroadreachNetworks’ CEO Magnus McEwen-King said many users of the hotspot network were already Skype users. He said enabling free Skype brought additional value to what Broadreach offered and changed peoples’ mindset from instinctively using a mobile in a station to make an expensive call, to taking out a laptop. And once your laptop is out, it’s a small step to check your email, which does incur charges.

McEwen-King said that the choice of Skype over rival Internet telephony services was a meeting of minds. ‘We have the same outlook,’ he said. ‘It just works. It’s very intuitive… We’re interested in who’s offering a good service. I don’t care what the technology is providing it.’

He also said that dealing with a company as flexible and dynamic as Skype meant the deal could be sealed within a few weeks without the need for legions of lawyers.

Broadreach will market the service as ReadytoTalk, along side its ReadytoSurf brand.

Users connecting to a Broadreach hotspot see a Skype banner below the signing on screen form where they can download the software if the don’t already have it installed. It will also be available to users of kiosk terminals.

Currently Skype users don’t automatically see their contact list when logging into a service from another machine and have to search for and add their contacts manually. But Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom told us that fixing this bug is ‘not that far away’.

Broadreach has hotspots installed around the country in a range of high ‘footfall’ locations, such as stations, retail stores such as Virgin Megastores and restaurants such as EAT, as well as hotels including the Travelodge, Quality and Queens Moat House hotels.

The company has around 110,000 registered users.

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