Back in September of 2008 and now today, Skype has announced initiatives to open the Skype network to SIP users. These two solutions; Skype for Asterisk and Skype for SIP are very different and offer significantly different capabilities.

Just to recap the details. Skype for Asterisk, which is still in closed beta, is a true Asterisk channel driver. This allows Asterisk based solutions to make, receive and transfer Skype calls. A significant capability of the SFA solution is its support for terminating a call to a Skype user name, for example a PC based user of the Skype client.

Skype for SIP is a very different animal. This service provides VOIP trunk support for existing SIP based PBX systems, which may include Asterisk. Unlike SFA where calls may be place to any Skype user, SFS calls may only be terminated to PSTN end points.

So what does this all mean to the Voice/Telco 2.0 marketplace. Overall Skype is beginning to leverage their extensive VOIP network to compete in the VOIP origination and termination marketplaces. Both of these services would enable a SIP based PBX user to utilize Skype as their transport vendor. For example, a traditional SIP PBX customers would directly use SFS for call termination and would provision Skype in numbers to provide origination.

From our perspective as a cloud telephony company, providing hosted telephone applications, SFA is much more interesting. While either service would allow us to provide IVR services to Skype users, the SFA Asterisk channel driver architecture allows us to terminate calls into call centers with no PSTN transport. Each call center Agent would just utilize a headset connected to a computer running the traditional Skype application. Customers calls would be able to originate from either a PSTN device or a Skype client, then route through the Ifbyphone IVR infrastructure and terminate to a call center via Skype’s computer to computer transport. This has the potential to change the cost structure associated with supporting call centers. A Skype based call center would not require a PBX or for even any centralized telephony components. The call center agents could be virtually located anywhere in the world on high quality Internet connections.

Overall Skype’s moves to open their network are exciting and create significant opportunities for innovative Cloud Telephony companies.