Bobsled by T-Mobile to Provide Skype Style VOIP Calling on Facebook

Nice to see T-Mobile isn’t letting a certain looming, lumbering acquisition get in the way of innovation.

T-Mobile has launched Bobsled, a Facebook app that allows users to make VOIP calls to friends through Facebook chat and leave public or private Facebook voice messages.{T-Mobile blog}

Bobsled by T-Mobile is a new brand aimed at bridging the world of traditional telecommunications with Internet-based voice and data services. This application for Facebook is the first product available under the new Bobsledâ„¢ by T-Mobile brand. As the way people communicate transcends networks and devices, Bobsled by T-Mobile positions T-Mobile as a provider of cloud-based communications services over the Internet.”

If anyone remembers what happened to all of the good brand equity Cingular had when it was acquired by AT&T (hint: they killed the brand off in favor of the not so favored AT&T brand), this seems to be a curious time for T-Mobile to launch a new brand. Pushing the Bobsled brand will make it easier for AT&T to step in and take over, but with their history there doesn’t seem to be any guarantee that AT&T will keep it.

Let’s say that even after the acquisition, AT&T gets this right. Establishing a separate brand for something that’s aiming to replicate a startup’s success is a smart move, but allowing it some of the freedom that allows startups to grow is another thing. If the deal goes through, there will certainly be plenty of money to support Bobsled, but there may also be a big corporate bureaucracy to follow that kills off any chance it has of establishing marketshare when a company like, oh say… Skype, introduces an app with similar functionality.

There are plans in the “near future” to include video chat, VOIP calls to landline and mobile numbers in the US, and carrier agnostic smartphone apps that bring those features to mobile devices.

We do like the fact that T-Mobile is being vocal about their plans. With any hope, during the massive regulatory investigation which is sure to come before the T-Mobile/AT&T deal can go through the Department of Justice will include requirements similar to those it imposed on the Google/ITA deal that ensure the project isn’t starved of funding or attention and abandoned before it gets a chance to succeed.

Bobsled by T-Mobile can be downloaded here.

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