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Skype On iPhone, But Not ATT's 3G Network

Internet phone service provider Skype said it will offer an iPhone application tomorrow, a move that will allow users of the service to place free international phone calls on the Apple device over WiFi networks.

But if you want to make a call to London while riding on the bus in Arlington, or conduct a conference call with colleagues in Sao Paolo and Istanbul while walking down Wisconsin Avenue, you'll still be charged AT&T's international rates because the Skype voice application won't work outside WiFi hotspots.

Skype said Apple's software developer rules prevent Internet voice applications from being used on the phone. AT&T referred me to Apple, which didn't respond to my calls. Consumer and public interest groups have called for regulatory rules to prevent such practices.

AT&T, which has an exclusive agreement with Apple to provide network services for the iPhone for an indefinite period of time, said its own terms of service would allow voice over internet applications.

Skype has pushed for regulatory reforms to prevent carriers and technology companies from blocking applications like theirs on any cell phone network. In February 2007, the carrier filed a petition to the Federal Communications Commission that would punish firms that prevent applications and devices from being used on carrier networks. Last year, then-chairman Kevin Martin put forth an order to dismiss the Skype petition but didn't' get majority support from his other four commissioners. Acting chairman Michael Copps or nominated chair Julius Genachowski could vote to enact Skype's petition which is still pending at the FCC.

"As we explain what is at stake, the more policy experts understand the issues; that this is about affordability to support international calling and better rates," said Christopher Libertelli, senior counsel for Skype, which is owned by eBay of San Jose. "Skype on the iPhone is a concrete example of how iPhone users can use it on WiFi but would have more choices if it were on (ATT's) 3G."

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 30, 2009; 6:00 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
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