As expected, Skype and 3 have launched a new handset that lets you make free Skype to Skype calls and send free Skype instant messages from your mobile phone to other Skype users, no matter where they are.

The 3 Skypephone is a "fully-featured" 3G internet phone with Skype built-in. In addition to Skype calls, the phone makes conventional calls and can be used to access 3's range of other internet services.

3 customers using the 3 Skypephone will be able to make Skype calls and send instant messages on the move with the push of a dedicated button.

This is the first time an operator has offered a mass market device which is tailor-made for free calling over the internet from a mobile.

Michael van Swaaij, acting CEO at Skype said, "Skype is now truly mobile. This new handset is incredibly easy to use and lets you make free mobile Skype calls when you are on the move to other Skype users all over the world no matter where they are".

"It couldn't be simpler put Skype in your pocket and make free Skype mobile calls and send free Skype instant messages at the touch of a single Skype button."

He added: "It takes an innovative operator like 3 to challenge traditional thinking and offer the kind of product other operators are still shying away from".

Kevin Russell, CEO, 3 UK, said, "3 wants to make the mobile internet available to everyone. To do this, we believe that services need to be simple to access and affordable. Communication is the prime function of the mobile today".

The handset is manufactured by Chinese company Amoi, and developed by Skype and 3 in partnership with Qualcomm, using Qualcomm's BREW platform to enable Skype to work with core handset features such as address book and messaging.

Non-phone related functionality includes a 2-megapixel camera and an MP3 player complete with bundled 256MB memory card.

The bad? There's no video calling or Skype-Out functionality - although both are promised in 2008.

For anyone who doesn't like the look of this seemingly capable, yet pretty basic handset, 3 has said that the SIM will work in other phones, so it will be possible to chose another mobile, although it's not clear at this stage if you'll get the full Skype functionality as in the address book and IMing.

The 3 Skypephone will be available this year in the UK, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Macau and Sweden.

Skype to Skype calls will always be free from the 3 Skypephone as long as you are on contract or your PAYG 3 credit is topped up monthly.

In the UK, the 3 Skypephone is £49.99 on a PAYG tariff or free on a contract.

The 3 Skypephone is available from 2nd November in 3Stores across the UK and from Skype and 3's websites in time for Christmas. The 3 Skypephone is available for pre-order in the UK from today.

Pocket-lint will bring you a hands-on first impressions with the new phone very soon...