AT&T Allows iPhone To Make Internet Calls On Cell Network
AT&T said Tuesday it would open its 3G wireless network to Internet voice applications on the iPhone, including Skype. The move comes as the nation's second largest wireless operator has been pushing back against proposed net neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission.
Skype and other Internet voice applications could operate on the iPhone through WiFi access. But AT&T had denied service for such applications on its cellular networks.
"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, chief executive of AT&T Mobility & Consumer Markets. "Today's decision was made after evaluating our customers' expectations and use of the device compared to dozens of others we offer."
The move was significant ahead of a controversial proposal at the FCC that would codify and broaden rules for how Internet service providers, including wireless carriers, can decide what kinds of applications and content are allowed on their networks. The rules would effectively prevent the carriers from acting as gatekeepers of legal content and services.
AT&T said in a release that it informed the FCC and Apple of its decision. The company said Voice over Internet services have been available on other phones its operates, but hadn't been on the iPhone. When asked about whether Google Voice, a calling service, would be included, a spokesman said the decision to include or exclude the application was up to Apple. There is also debate on whether the service, which aggregates and connects calls, is a voice-over-Internet-protocol application.
Skype, which has rallied for net neutrality rules, hailed the announcement. But the company said even with the move, the FCC should move forward on stronger Internet access protections.
"It is the right step for AT&T, Apple, millions of mobile Skypers and the Internet itself," said Josh Silver, CEO of Skype. "Nonetheless, 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."
October 6, 2009; 4:27 PM ET
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