VOIP over cellular: read the fine print

T-Mobile International is among the first companies to ban the use of VOIP service over its networks

As low-priced Internet phone services for mobile devices emerge, users should first check the fine print in their cell phone contracts to see if they can take advantage of such services.

There's a chance they can't.

T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG, which has mobile phone operations in Europe and the U.S., is among the first companies to ban the use of VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service over its networks. Its Web 'n' Walk professional service expressly prohibits such usage and reserves the right to terminate contracts.

Like many other mobile phone companies, T-Mobile wants to protect its cash-cow telephone service from new providers of VOIP over mobile services, such as Mino Wireless USA Inc.

Last week, the Sunnyvale, California, company launched one of the world's first commercial VOIP over mobile services, offering fees as low as $0.02 per minute for international calls.

That's cheap -- really cheap -- compared to the $1 per minute or more mobile phone users in many countries currently pay to make international calls.

To use Mino, customers need to install the company's mobile VOIP application on a Java-enabled mobile phone.

Mino joins other VOIP heavyweights, such as Skype Technologies, a unit of eBay Inc. Earlier this year, Skype announced a VOIP partnership with Hutchison 3 Group (Hutchison 3G), which operates IP-based mobile broadband networks in several European markets. The Skype mobile VOIP application runs on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile software.

Mobile VOIP startup Iskoot, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is also working with Skype to allow users to make or receive Internet calls with their mobile phones.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.