They thought this day would never come: Ladies and gentlemen, AT&T Inc. will now allow VoIP applications to run across its cellular network, not just Wi-Fi.
The carrier has blocked IP-based voice apps for the iPhone from running on 2G and 3G in the past, including Skype and, famously, Google Voice. Though AT&T never mentioned why, speculation as to the reason blockage includes, of course, a reluctance to lose voice call revenue, and network congestion concerns.
But it’s caught a lot of flak for those decisions, and as VoIP continues to become an embraced application in the industry in general, who is AT&T to blow against the wind, right? Competitively, Clearwire, several cablecos and even Verizon Wireless have said they won’t block third-party VoIP on their 4G or 3G networks, even if cellular voice remains the bread and butter revenue stream today.
Officially, the carrier said it made its decision because it already enables cellular VoIP on other devices, and, well, the sky hasn’t fallen. “iPhone is an innovative device that dramatically changed the game in wireless when it was introduced just two years ago,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO for AT&T Mobility & Consumer Markets, in a statement. “Today’s decision was made after evaluating our customers’ expectations and use of the device compared to dozens of others we offer.”
It’s good news for Vonage too, which this week launched an iPhone app for its voice service.
Regardless of the reason, AT&T is now cellular VoIP-friendly on the iPhone, saying it has taken the steps necessary to let Apple enable VoIP applications to run on AT&T’s wireless network. AT&T this afternoon informed Apple and the FCC of its decision.
Skype took a vindicated tone: “Since launching our iPhone application six months ago, consumers have downloaded and installed Skype on 10% of all iPhone and iPod touch devices sold,” said Josh Silverman, president of Skype, in a statement. “This clearly demonstrates that our customers are extremely interested in taking Skype conversations with them on the go on the iPhone.”
He added that while Skype is naturally happy about the turn of events, “the positive actions of one company are no substitute for a government policy that protects openness and benefits consumers and we look forward to further innovations that will enable even more mobile Skype calling.”
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