All Eyes on AT&T at CTIA; Will Ma Bell Let Skype Onto Its Networks?
Is AT&T about to announce Skype and Google Voice will run on its mobile network via Apple's iPhone? That's the buzz ahead of a wireless industry conference that begins Wednesday in San Diego.
One source close to the thinking of AT&T executives said the company has been deliberating the decision for weeks and that top executives have said they were close to accepting voice over Internet services on all AT&T phones, including the iPhone. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because a decision hadn't been officially announced. Skype currently operates on the iPhone through WiFi access, but not on AT&T's 3G mobile network.
AT&T has declined to comment on the rumors. It says it was Apple's decision to deny or permit applications like Google Voice and other VOIP providers on the iPhone. VOIP applications run on other phones on AT&T's 3G network, but not the iPhone. Apple has said in a letter to the FCC that it hasn't blocked Google Voice or other voice services, saying it is still in the process of evaluating those applications on the iPhone. Google, meanwhile, in its own letters to the FCC says Apple executives flatly informed Google they would block Google Voice. Skype also said its service has been blocked from the iPhone.
As the debate over an FCC proposal for stronger net neutrality rules escalates, some industry sources speculate that the phone giant may make an announcement at the CTIA conference that shows it is moving toward more open policies on its wireless network. The proposed rules would prohibit firms like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner from blocking applications on their telecom, cable and mobile networks. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will give keynote speeches Wednesday.
On Monday, Vonage announced it would offer its voice service on the iPhone and RIM's Blackberry, perhaps a small step toward a loosening of policy at the carrier. It would be the first voice application on the iPhone that would work on WiFi networks and AT&T's cellular networks. A spokesman for Vonage said the service would be a voice service, not a data service, and wouldn't run on AT&T's 3G data network. Instead it would offer cheaper calls internationally.
October 6, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
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