Last week at Mobilize, global carrier Hutchison Whompoa, best known as mobile operator THREE in the UK and in other markets was present with a ranking executive. They also co-sponsored the post event reception along with client Boingo.
Their presence in a USA conference about mobile intrigued me, so with a bit of digging around in London (read visiting their stores, talking to people close to 3, etc.) I was able to piece together some facts.
1) They have built the SkypePhone. Now they want to market it globally
2) The person who spoke at Mobilize is their "product" person. His job is to find customer/carrier partners to sell it.
3) The mission is to get USA based carriers to adopt their device.
4) Mobile operators like leading USA pre-paid carrier Boost Mobile would be an ideal target for them because Boost wants a cheap, low priced, feature rich phone for their network that takes them beyond the iDen based Motorola Walkie-Talkie phones. The SkypePhone from Three would immediately give them talk and text on their network.
While 3 is not in the business of "selling phones" they claim, their investment in the SkypePhone needs to generate more of a return. That, and by working with the MVNO's they learn a lot about the USA market, and then can develop a market entry opportunity when the time is right.