Sales of PC-free Wi-Fi Skype handsets taking off

Sales of new Wi-Fi mobile handsets designed to work without a PC are gaining momentum ahead of the holidays, companies report.

Sales of new Wi-Fi mobile handsets that use Skype software and do not require a PC to make calls are gaining momentum ahead of the holidays, companies report.

The Wi-Fi mobile phones are rousing interest for two reasons: the low cost of using Skype services to make calls, and because people can use them more like a traditional mobile phone, without the aid of a PC. Skype, for example, is offering the WSKP100 by SMC Networks in a package on its Web site that includes the handset, a Wi-Fi router, 500 minutes of calls to regular mobile phones and landlines (SkypeOut) and 12 months of Skype voicemail for just £99 (AUD$168).

"Sales are going great so far," said Brian Nickell, product manager at SMC Networks. He said SMC is currently selling its Wi-Fi Skype handset, the WSKP100, in North America, Europe and Asia, and that the company will release more local language models soon.

The SMC model is identical to the VM1185T by Accton Technology and the F1PP000GN-SK by Belkin International for a reason. SMC is the U.S. marketing subsidiary of Accton, which developed the Wi-Fi handset.

The Taiwanese company reported that its overall sales in November rose 13 percent over October thanks to the handset, a sign users may find them in their stockings this holiday season. The company's November sales reached NT$1.38 billion (AUD$54.5 million), up from NT$1.22 billion in October, it said Tuesday.

The Wi-Fi handset offers Skype VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) software, and features such as 802.11b/g compatibility with added security features to keep conversations private. Users can use the handsets anywhere they can access Skype services, such as Wi-Fi networks at Starbucks coffee shops or on college campuses. It automatically searches for Wi-Fi signals.

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Dan Nystedt

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