As well as voice over internet protocol (Voip) calls, the 3 Skypephone will send instant messages to any of Skype’s 246 million users.
The 3G mobile phone, which has a 2-megapixel camera and MP3 player, can also be used to make normal calls and to access 3’s internet services.
It’s available from 2 November and costs £49.99 for people on 3’s ‘pay-as-you-go’ tariff; it’s free for customers on a contract.
The phone is the first handset specifically designed to allow free internet calls.
Kevin Russell, chief executive of 3 UK, said his company wanted to make mobile internet available to everyone.
He added: ‘To do this, we believe that services need to be simple to access and affordable. Communication is the prime function of the mobile today. Skype is the leader in internet communications. To enable Skype to go mobile in this way brings free internet calls together with an affordable 3G handset. Mobile has the potential to massively increase access to internet calling.’
Voip calls work by sending the caller’s voice over the internet as packets of information in the same way as photos, text and other data.
Voip is increasingly popular in the UK, with the industry predicting up to 3 million users will be signed up by the end of this year.
Which? mobile phones expert Jon Barrow said: ‘This is an exciting development. Voip offers consumers a real chance to slash their phone bills, and although this service is currently restricted to calls made to other Skype users, it’s still a bold move by 3.
‘We look forward to testing this new handset in the near future.’