Telecos pray for time when the Skype finally falls in

This morning’s Observer column

When many of the current crop of senior telecoms executives pass away, the word ‘Skype’ will be found engraved on their hearts. Skype, as every teenager knows, is a system for making free telephone calls over the internet.

All you need is a computer and a broadband connection at either end. If you want to make calls from your computer to an ‘ordinary’ telephone, you can pay Skype a small ‘Skype-out’ fee. Now you can also sign up for a ‘Skype-in’ service, which allows folks with ordinary phones to call you on your PC.

Since its inception in 2003, Skype’s subscriber numbers have followed the time-honoured exponential curve. The company now claims to be adding 150,000 registered new users a day. And yes, you read that correctly: 150,000 a day. For telecoms, these numbers are bad enough. But what’s worse is that Skype is adding all those new subscribers without investing a cent in plant and equipment….