Will Carriers Ever Allow VoIP iPhone Apps Like Skype to Work Over 3G?

Skype app for iPhone

Skype has had an interesting few months in the recent past. The company is currently in the process of spinning off as an independent entity from its parent, eBay, which acquired Skype back in 2005 for $2.6 billion. 

The company, valued at close to $2.75 billion, was sold to Silver Lake Partners who now own close to 65% of the company's shares. 

The reason we're talking about Skype is because their CEO, Josh Silverman is on a mission to make sure his company's VoIP mobile application works over 3G.

In spite of the recent strides taken in the field of 3G, Skype has really not been able to build a stronghold in the mobile VoIP market. This is because, the network carriers have imposed stringent restrictions to check the proliferation of the mobile VoIP services. That is the reason why in spite of having launched an awesome iPhone app back in March this year, Skype has only had limited proliferation. According to Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype: “The usage on iPhone is pretty good, but it is still handcuffed.”

Currently, the Skype app for iPhone is freely available on the App Store. However, it can be only used with Wi-Fi networks due to the limitations placed by the iPhone SDK by the carriers. It is anyone's guess then about how useful this iPhone app can prove to be if it was allowed over 3G as well. Workarounds are always possible and in this case, iPhone hacks like VOIPover3G can help you out. But then we are failing to look at the bigger picture – Why is there a limitation on the use of VOiP over 3G in the first place? 

Josh Silverman is on a mission these days to make sure his company's VoIP mobile application works over 3G. He will be attending an event at Brookings Institute, Washington DC today where he will be discussing at length the advantages of encouraging an open mobile ecosystem nurtured through apps. John had also challenged the views of mobile network operators last week when he had argued that the carriers were getting in the way of what people actually need – a Skype that is usable in a wide area network. His argument is that the telcos view Skype as a player that can eat into their revenues from voice services if it were to be available on 3G. 

While that is not completely true, there is merit in the carriers' fears of losing revenue to Skype. But then, forced policing of the networks is not the way out either. As Silverman notes, "It is one Internet, and it doesn’t matter what network and what device you use to get to it, I see no distinction between a PC or an iPhone, just as there is no difference in wired and wireless networks".

But there might be some hope based on AT&T’s comment to FCC regarding the fiasco over Apple’s rejection of Google Voice related iPhone apps, which even Skype had acknowledged in a blog post:

“In a filing today responding to the FCC's inquiry into its role in the approval of apps made available through Apple's App Store, AT&T said that it plans "to take a fresh look at possibly authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone for use on AT&T's 3G network."

If this policy is changed, you may be able to make calls to other Skype users, landlines and mobiles over 3G from your iPhone.

We welcome AT&T's willingness to take a fresh look at this issue and hope this is a step forward in enabling consumers to use Skype together with their iPhones and 3G connection. We look forward to hearing more about any potential change to AT&T's policy, in connection with the pending FCC proceeding related to the Skype petition (RM-11361).

All of us at Skype want to encourage other wireless carriers around the world whose policies block or discourage Skype use to re-evalute their policies and to make it easy for their users to take Skype conversations with them when they're on the go.”

Do you think the carriers will allow VoIP iPhone Apps like Skype to work over 3G? Let us know your opinion in the comments section. 

[via GigaOm]

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