We've written about several approaches to freeing Skype users from their physical connection to the personal computer. One group, using gateways to cell phone networks, lets users really cut loose; another uses a variety of wireless networking technologies to let users move and phone freely in the vicinity of the PC.
A new offering, announced yesterday by Chicago-based USRobotics, falls into the second category. The company's USR9630 Cordless Phone for Skype provides cordless Skype and landline PSTN service from a single phone system.
USR also announced a companion USR9631 Accessory Handset. As many as three USR9631s can be added, for a maximum of four handsets operating off the base stationsimilar to many 2.4GHz home phone systems currently available.
However, the USR Cordless Phone for Skype doesn't use the 2.4GHz band, which is also home to 802.11b/g (Wi-Fi) and Bluetooth networks. Rather, this system uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) 8.0 technology to communicate between base station and handset, providing a 50 meter range indoors, 300 meters outdoors, with no interference to household Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
The base station unit connects both to the household landline and to a Windows XP/2000 PC running Skype, via USB (either 1.1 or 2.0). The full-duplex phone supports Skype and telco caller ID, and the handset has both a battery power indicator and an out-of-range warning tone.
A backlit LCD display provides access to Skype contacts, and the phone supports all forms of Skype calling: Skype-to-Skype, SkypeIn (direct inward dialing from the PSTN) and SkypeOut (calls to PSTN gatways).
The USR9630 Cordless Phone for Skype will be available from walk-in and on-line retailers in September, at an MSRP of $119.00. The USR9631 Accessory handset will have MSRP of $69.99.