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Apple says it will allow Internet voice services on iPhone, iPad

Apple said it will allow Internet voice, or VoIP, service providers to run on the iPhone and iPad, after concerns by federal regulators that blocking those services could violate open-Internet access rules. The company's decision came with the launch of a new version of its mobile operating system for the iPad tablet computer on Wednesday.

The decision will pave the way for companies such as Skype and Vonage to put their free or low-priced voice applications on Apple's devices. The move comes after federal regulators asked Apple about its earlier decision to block such applications. Currently the applications can only access WiFi connections on the iPhone. The Federal Communications Commission is in the middle of crafting new open-Internet rules that would prevent wireless carriers from barring applications from their networks.

"I commend Apple's decision to open its platform to 3G calling, an action that will create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and provide more choices for consumers," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

Specifically, Apple said it revised it program license agreement for developers in the new version of its mobile operating system, the iPhone OS 3.2. In the update, it gave developers the ability to create VoIP applications on AT&T's (Apple's exclusive provider for the iPhone and its first partner for the iPad) 3G network.

A spokesman at Skype said it has been waiting for approval of its voice service and has had a developer application ready since December. The company welcomed the announcement, but as of last night, the spokesman said that Apple didn't appear to have put the change into effect. So they're still waiting.

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 29, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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