Digium Marries Open Source Asterisk VoIP And Skype

Digium, the maker of VoIP products based on the open-source Asterisk platform, and Skype on Tuesday partnered up to enable free and low-cost Skype calling and other Skype functionality via any Asterisk-based PBX.

The Skype for Asterisk software is available for download now. The software connects Asterisk-based phone systems to Skype to let companies make Skype's low-cost voice and video calls to landline and mobile phones and free calls to any of the more than 400 million Skype users via free global Skype-to-Skype calling.

Digium said the Skype for Asterisk software natively encrypts all voice calls while also letting users manage Skype user accounts via Skype's Web-based Business Control Panel. In addition, companies already using an Asterisk-based phone system can add Skype as a complimentary form of communications without having to buy additional hardware. Meanwhile, Skype users get the benefits of all Asterisk functions like call transfer, interactive voice response, automated call distribution, flexible call routing and more.

"We collaborated with Skype to let businesses make calls and have access to the Skype community," said Peter Engler, product manager, strategic products for Digium.

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Along with a direct connection to Skype via the Asterisk PBX for VoIP calls, Skype for Asterisk also ties in other Skype functionality like presence, instant messaging, file sharing and other collaborative features. Users can use the Skype desktop client.

The pairing comes as Skype continues to make inroads into the enterprise and plans the launch of a channel program. At Interop Las Vegas 2009 in May, Skype General Manager and Vice President Stefan Oberg said roughly 35 percent of Skype's more than 400 million users are business users, and among them 20 percent use video for business purposes; 95 percent are saving money over their traditional phone systems; 80 percent see productivity gains; and 70 percent use it while traveling for business.

Digium's channel can take advantage of Skype's business functionality while also building products and solutions around Skype for Asterisk, giving clients access to Skype's features with a higher level of control and cost savings, Engler said.

Foehn Ltd., a Digium partner based in the U.K., has been building and implementing Asterisk-based VoIP solutions for more than five years. Foehn's technical director, James Passingham, said Skype for Asterisk unlocks new communication possibilities while also cutting communication costs.

"With Skype for Asterisk, we can offer our clients even more freedom in business communications," he said. "The ability to unlock the lower call costs of Skype provides a huge savings opportunity, especially for those with offices and customers around the globe."

Matthew Jordan, Skype's enterprise business development manager, agreed that Skype for Asterisk software can cut phone system costs by using Skype's low-cost calling to landlines and mobile phones, for typically as low as 2.1 cents per minute, and its free global Skype-to-Skype calling.

"Everyone is looking to squeeze what they can from every dollar," he said, adding that building an open-source VoIP system via Asterisk and baking in Skype can save money.

Skype for Asterisk is available for download or purchase from resellers and distributors now for $66 per concurrent call, Digium and Skype said.

The general availability of Skype for Asterisk comes as former Skype owner eBay reveals it is selling 65 percent of its ownership of Skype for $1.9 billion to private investors Silver Lake, Index Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. EBay will retain a 35 percent stake in Skype, which it purchased for roughly $3.3 billion in cash and considerations in 2005.