Note: this post has been modified and updated to reflect clarifications of issues from Skype PR.
I woke up this morning to find this message on Phil’s Skype Journal post announcing the download availability of Skype for iPhone but with one caveat:
“THIS APPLICATION IS NOT AVAILABLE IN CANADA AND THE USER WARRANTS THAT THEY CANNOT DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION FROM CANADA.”
I can accept that some iPhone applications are not available in Canada for copyright reasons (in fact, the iTunes launch in Canada was held up for a year or so while addressing copyright issues); however, my initial skepticism centered on two issues that could be holding this up in Canada.
- Rogers, who is the only Canadian carrier with both iPhone and GSM BlackBerry, offers a Talkspot service @ $20 per month where users of supported UMA equipped BlackBerry 8×20 devices and the 8900 Curve can make calls from a Canadian location via a WiFi connection. Update: However, this is NOT the case as supported by a statement in Matt Hartley’s Globe and Mail story this morning: “Rogers, which is the exclusive Canadian carrier for the iPhone, said it would not seek to block its customers from using the service.”
- The 911 issue: Canadian Skype Online (formerly SkypeIn) numbers are still not available in Canada due to the need to have a 911 service associated with any number. However, this is only a requirement for DID-types of services over regulated carriers. Skype for iPhone only operates over WiFi connections which are unregulated in Canada.
This morning I have had call requests from not only the U.S. but also Malaysia and observed that some Voice On The Web Public Chat participants in the U.K. are now testing it. So it appears to be available elsewhere worldwide.
However, thanks to an enquiry from the CBC to Skype PR we have an answer:
Chaim Haas, a public relations representative acting on behalf of Skype, said the application is available in every country in which the iPhone is on sale and in which Apple has an iTunes Store — with the exception of Canada.
Haas said this is because of patent-license restrictions but would not elaborate except to specify that it is a patent issue related to Skype, not Apple.
Update: in response to my enquiry to Chaim early this morning I received word that the patent-licensing issues are “codec-related”. Tom Keating reports this also on TMC’s VoIP and Gadgets blog.
Update #2: When I asked at Skype’s CTIA press conference Tuesday afternoon for a clarification of the Canadian situation, Skype COO Scott Durchslag responded that Skype is trying to clarify an “ambiguity” re the G729 codec license in Canada. He did say they hope to have this resolved “soon”.
Skype also announced Skype Lite for BlackBerry beta will be available in May. Further on in the CBC post there is mention of a limitation for Canadians that relates to Canadian 911 requirements:
The Skype application for BlackBerry will be available wherever the devices are supported, said Haas, but only customers in select countries — including the U.S. and the United Kingdom but not Canada — will be able to use the Skype Out or Skype-to-Skype services to make outgoing calls.
Canadian Blackberry users will only be able to use the version of the application for instant messaging and to receive calls from Skype users.
Canadian Skype customers, including those using the application from desktop computers, are already unable to use Skype’s “Skype In” service, which allows users to receive calls from landlines and mobile devices, because CRTC regulations require phone service operators to offer enhanced 911, which allows the operator to find the location of a caller.
In the meantime, for Canadians, here are some ways to access Skype via WiFi or carrier:
- iSkoot on BlackBerry – carrier for voice, WiFi or carrier for data – my first choice at the moment
- IM+ for Skype (iPhone, iPod Touch and BlackBerry versions) – same comment as for iSkoot – definitely my second choice
- Truphone: but may have call quality issues
- Nimbuzz: have not successfully completed a call; also issues with how they handle chat
- Fring: again call quality issues.
So the current question is: when will the “Canadian” version of Skype for iPhone become available? With chat being 90% of my Skype activity and being able to place Skype calls, when required, in other ways, it’s the “group and public chat” issue described by Dan York that I would most appreciate.
And what Canadian has a Canadian patent application or patent that is holding up full Skype access to the rest of his/her countrymen?
- Alec Saunders, Saunderslog: No Skype on iPhone for Canadians
- Mark Evans, Mark Evans Tech: Tired of Being a Digital Peasant!
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