Skype just announced its mobile partner program for operators at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This program aims to bring the company’s services to markets with “low 3G broadband penetration.” Skype aims to introduce a new client for feature phones and smartphones that can utilize bandwidth more efficiently and will have “minimal impact on battery life and data usage. To enable this, Skype will also deploy a new purpose-built server solution for operators.

According to Skype’s VP and general manager of mobile, the company hopes to utilize this program to “give operators in emerging markets the possibility to tap into the global Skype community while providing a great user experience on a variety of mobile handsets.” Skype already has similar operator partnerships with Verizon, KDDI and Hutchison 3. This new program will make it easier for additional partners to bring Skype’s service to their networks.

In general, these earlier partnerships were aimed at smartphone users in established markets – though its partnership with Verizon also includes support for some feature phones. Today’s announcement specifically references feature phones and emerging markets. Skype clearly sees this as the major growth opportunity, though it remains to be seen how interested the carriers in these markets are, given that Skype’s free services often directly compete with the carriers’ offerings.

Also: More WiFi Hotspots

In addition to this, Skype also announced that it is expanding its pay-as-you go WiFi hotspot program Skype Access to include over 500,000 access points around the world. Skype Access partners include major WiFi providers like BT Openzone, Fon, M3 Connect and the in-flight hotspot solution Row 44. Skype users can pay for access to these networks with the help of their Skype credits.