Tue, Nov 28, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Skype pleased with strong growth in Taiwan market

TALKING MONEY Taiwanese are using the Luxembourg-based company's paid services at double the rate of users in other countries

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Skype Technologies SA, the world's leader in Internet phone services, yesterday said it is seeing a strong momentum for its paid services in Taiwan.

"Not only is our user base going strong here but our paid services have also been well received," said Vicky Tseng (曾薰儀), director of the marketing and investor relation department of PC Home Online (網路家庭), a local portal which is a Skype partner.

Taiwan, which saw the launch of Skype in July 2004, has 4.5 million users to date, up from last year's 3 million, she said.

Ten percent of users in Taiwan are using Skype's paid services -- such as SkypeOut, a service that calls out to overseas mobile or fixed lines, or to send text messages to overseas cellphones, according to Tseng.

The percentage is higher than in other countries, where only 5 percent of members use Skype's paid services, she said.

Free calls

Luxembourg-based Skype, which now has 136 million registered users worldwide, has grown increasingly popular since its launch in August 2003 as it allows free calls among members anywhere in the world.

Utilizing voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology, Skype is able to offer cheaper rates than fixed-line operators for paid services such as SkypeOut.

Eyeing the Skype craze, local companies whose products are certified Skype-compatible include wireless equipment player Accton Technology Corp (智邦科技) and Ipevo Inc, a subsidiary of PC Home developing Skype devices.

Half of the 60 companies that obtained product certification from Skype last year were Taiwanese, Manrique Brenes, Skype's director of hardware business development, said in Taipei in June.

Home-grown

As homegrown players are extending their link-ups with Skype, it will soon establish a center to pre-certify products on their Skype compatibility, according to an inside source.

The center, which will pave way for a full certification center in future, will be put together in the second quarter of next year, with collaboration with quasi-official Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院).

"Skype is discreet on the selection of partners for product certification, so the setup will be a collaboration in its initial stage," the source said.

In July, ITRI took the initiative to launch a certification center to ensure the quality of VoIP products made here.

Taiwan is the world's biggest manufacturer of VoIP wares, its output nearly doubling to NT$15 billion (US$457.5 million) last year from NT$8.5 billion in 2003, according to ITRI's statistics.

Skype yesterday announced the release of Skype 3.0 beta version, which offers overhauled interface and new browser extensions that recognize telephone numbers on Web pages to trigger a Skype call to that number when clicked.

It will also hold a Skype Day workshop in Taipei next Wednesday. Skype cofounder Geoffrey Prentice will deliver a keynote speech in the Skype's only gathering in Asia this year.

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