MACH said on Wednesday that it has been selected by Microsoft's Skype division as the first vendor to deliver direct operator billing to new and existing Skype users in key markets across the globe.
Starting in October, users will be able to purchase Skype Credit by applying the charge against their monthly wireless carrier statement or pre-paid account, similar to the way they can purchase apps, music, or subscribe to third-party services. Skype Credit can be purchased from the desktop or from any smartphone or tablet through a web browser – in-app purchasing will be activated at a later date.
MACH offers a Direct Billing Gateway which provides a one-click operator billing service for mobile applications, content and mobile internet services, allowing providers to charge subscribers for services direct to their mobile phone bill or pre-paid balance in real time.
"The rollout will enable Skype to offer its customers a fast and convenient way to purchase Skype Credit, creating new revenue streams in existing markets, as well as in new markets where other payment methods have low penetration rates," MACH stated. "Direct operator billing will also reflect the same price points as current payment methods, ensuring a consistent user experience."
So far there's no word on exactly which wireless carrier will support the new direct operator billing feature. Verizon Wireless has been Skype's biggest supporter here in the United States, so the Big Red may be first in line. However given that Skype will likely be deeply integrated into Windows Phone 8 later this year, carriers may find this as simply another flow of revenue than a possible threat, especially now that "unlimited minutes" are the norm.
The move with Skype is preceded by a deal between MACH and Microsoft announced back in January. The Redmond company selected MACH's Direct Billing Gateway (DBG) service for Windows Phone 7 applications and content billing, allowing users from around the world to buy content from Microsoft’s Windows Phone Marketplace with a simple 1-click service, placing the fee for the application on the user’s phone bill.
"MACH’s strength in direct operator billing, as well as its heritage in delivering cloud-based communications solutions to over 650 operators, led us to select MACH as our first direct operator billing vendor," said Neil Ward, General Manager, Business Operations, Skype Division, on Wednesday. "Delivering a strong user-experience has been at the heart of Skype’s adoption by millions of users globally, and we want to extend this philosophy to the payment options we provide. We expect ease of payment to attract new users, while existing users will become more profitable customers as they increase their spend with us."
The exact date of when carrier billing will go live in October is unknown at this point, but we're betting sometime around the launch of Windows 8.