Skype WiFi by Skype Communications (free, in-app purchases) is an app that allows you to pay for Wi-Fi access using your Skype credit at millions of hotspots around the world. These places include hotels, train stations, airports, bars, and restaurants that Skype has negotiated agreements with. (You can find a list of popular supported Wi-Fi hotspots inside the app.)
Skype WiFi is a separate download to the Skype app and is not used for making calls. It is available for Android, iOS, and via the normal Skype app on your Mac or PC.
How Skype WiFi Works
Skype WiFi works by enabling you to connect to a public Wi-Fi network as you normally would through your device settings. You won’t be able to surf the web yet though as the hotspot will typically require paid credit and/or a sign-up for you to start browsing the internet. (Using Skype WiFi you won’t need to sign up to access the Wi-Fi, your Skype credit will be debited instead.)
Next, you launch the Skype WiFi app and sign in using your normal Skype ID.
Skype WiFi will then check to see if that Wi-Fi hotspot is supported. If it is, you can choose to connect, and the app will reserve enough paid Skype credit to pay for 30 minutes of Wi-Fi access. (You can adjust this to 60 or 120 minutes in the app settings.) However, you’re only charged for the time you actually use. Once you’re connected, you can surf the internet as you normally would.
Inside the app, you can see a list of popular Wi-Fi network providers for each country. There is also a list of popular locations where Skype WiFi can be accessed (like specific airports). You can search for Skype WiFi hotspots on a map at the Skype website here.
There’s not a lot more to the app because its main purpose is to bill you for accessing a partner Wi-Fi hotspot.
Here is a practical example of how it works.
I tested Skype WiFi at Singapore Changi Airport. I logged onto the public Wi-Fi network on my phone and then launched the Skype-WiFi app. Skype WiFi indicated that I could access that Starhub Wi-Fi network for $US 0.19/minute. (That equates to $US11.40/hr. Clearly, at this location, this isn’t cheap Internet access. As I discus later though, you could pick up that Skype credit for around half the price.)
It is important to note here that there is also free Internet access at the Singapore Changi airport. However, to access the free Wi-Fi network you must obtain a login code from an Information desk. That simply requires you to find an Information desk and present your passport.
It is, therefore, worth checking if free Wi-Fi options are available where you want to get online.
However, if you were in a rush and just wanted to jump online quickly, Skype WiFi might be an option for you. Also, if the free Wi-Fi network speeds were slow, you might want to test a paid network. Sometimes, the paid networks might, offer faster speeds. And so, you could log-in and pay for just a minute or two of access to quickly test the speeds, download your email, or quickly upload your Instagram selifes.
In total, I tested Skype WiFi at around half a dozen locations including several international airports. At two airports, there was no Skype WiFi provider available. (There was free Wi-Fi at these airports, though). At another three locations, I couldn’t connect to the Skype WiFi provider. (Again, it was the same company in these two cases.) Despite this, Skype WiFi might still be worth exploring if you’re stuck for WiFi access and really need to get connected.
Why Use Skype WiFi?
The advantage of using Skype WiFi is that you don’t need to sign up at the access point or provide your credit card details. That’s all handled by Skype using your Skype credit. Also, since it is charged per minute of access, you don’t have to buy an expensive block of 4 hours or 8 hours Internet access, much of which you may not use.
The price per minute of access varies according to the Wi-Fi hotspot you’re connecting to. It is clearly indicated in the Skype WiFi app before you are billed for connecting to the Internet. Since there are no charges for data transmission, you can upload or download data as much as you like. Obviously, the actual network speeds will differ depending upon the specific Wi-Fi network you’re connected to, and the network conditions at the time.
Also, sometimes it’s possible to get a discount on your Skype credit by purchasing Skype gift cards whilst they’re on sale. Retailers occasionally offer discounts in the order of 20% – 50%. Purchasing discounted gift cards would make your Skype WiFi access a lot more affordable. You may find websites in your country that have a list of local retailers currently selling gift cards like Skype or Google Play credit at discounted prices.
Skype WiFi gets mixed reviews in app stores. People tend to complain about not being able to connect at different locations, and that the pricing isn’t always cheap. These issues are more likely to be related to the network provider, and also how much the network owner wants to charge, and not always Skype WiFi as such. Also, a lot of reviews are written by people who misunderstand what the app is supposed to do: it is not the Skype app for making free voice or video calls.
In summary, if you need to get online at an airport or in a public space where you can’t find good fast, free Wi-Fi, Skype WiFi is worth a try. If you’ve purchased discounted Skype credit; you can jump online for a few minutes to complete all of the tasks you need to do at a very affordable price.
Since the Skype website is notoriously difficult to navigate in order to find content you’re looking for, here are some of the key Skype WiFi links:
Skype WiFi Home Page: https://wifi.skype.com
Skype WiFi Map: http://wifi.skype.com/maps
Other Details: Skype WiFi requires an Internet connection, a Skype Account and paid credit to use the service.