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Summary:

Rumors were circulating earlier in the day, but now AT&T has made official its plans to allow Internet calling services to be used with its wireless network. That’s great news for iPhone users, at whom the news was mostly targeted, since it means we could shortly […]

attlogoRumors were circulating earlier in the day, but now AT&T has made official its plans to allow Internet calling services to be used with its wireless network. That’s great news for iPhone users, at whom the news was mostly targeted, since it means we could shortly see Skype, Vonage, and Google Voice apps appear on the app store with full 3G functionality.

The official line is that AT&T is responding to customer expectation and demand considering the introduction of VOIP-capable devices like the iPhone, but in reality, with the FCC investigation into wireless industry competition hanging over its head, AT&T is probably trying to fend off government-mandated penalties in advance.

According to the Associated Press;

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, one of three Democrats on the commission, wants to impose net neutrality rules to ensure that broadband providers don’t abuse their power over Internet access to favor their own services or harm competitors. His plan has alarmed wireless carriers because it would apply these rules across different types of broadband networks, including wireless networks.

AT&T’s move is a calculated one, designed to show that the industry can successfully self-regulate without government interference. It’s kind of equivalent to the kid who wouldn’t share at recess readily giving up a toy once another kid actually leaves to tell the teacher.

Whatever the reason behind the decision to relax its rules for network use, the real winners here are iPhone users. If Skype, Google Voice, and other internet telephony apps make their way into the App Store, iPhone users will be able to avoid artificially high rates for long distance and contract minute overages by taking advantage of their existing data plans. It’s one more step towards flat data rates for all cell features, which is what should be in place anyway.

Of course, it’s still up to Apple to approve any VOIP apps before iPhone users can take advantage of the new rules. I’m willing to bet that Cupertino had a significant hand in convincing AT&T that this was a wise move, considering the negative press the computer company was receiving over the Google Voice debacle. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris had this to say about the announcement:

“We are very happy that AT&T is now supporting VOIP applications. We will be amending our developer agreements to get VOIP apps on the App Store and in customers’ hands as soon as possible.”

The introduction of 3G VOIP will no doubt have an impact on AT&T’s network, which has seen numerous problems in the past due to the increased demand placed upon it by iPhone users. The wireless provider seems to have made improvements, as evidenced by the relatively smooth introduction of MMS earlier this month, but it remains to be seen if they can also cope with this new load.

  1. AT&T’ 3G network is barely usable in downtown Manhattan as it is. Good luck with that.

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  2. [...] AT&T now to allow VOiP calling via 3G var addthis_pub = 'tonypittman'; var addthis_brand = 'Get The Next ____';var addthis_language = 'en';var addthis_options = 'email, twitter, favorites, digg, google, facebook, live, more'; [...]

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  3. [...] reported here on Tuesday that AT&T had announced plans to make VOIP services available on its 3G network. [...]

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  4. [...] Apple Blog reported here on Tuesday that AT&T had announced plans to make VOIP services available on its 3G network. [...]

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  5. [...] broke a couple of weeks back that AT&T is finally ready to allow Internet voice calls over its wireless network. What this means for iPhone users in the U.S. is that soon you’ll be able to make calls using [...]

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  6. I have tried on Skype & Fring so far, does not work.

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  7. Why on earth do people keep talking about Google Voice as an Internet telephony service? It’s not. Anybody who says otherwise is either misinformed or speculating.

    Yes, I do realize that they are probably using VOIP to carry calls, but that’s speculation. As a user of the service, you simply don’t have access to that.

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  8. [...] So long as you have iPhone OS 3.0 installed on your iPhone, you should be able to receive video calls with Fring from desktop and certain Nokia phone users once you install the update. As with everything cool on the iPhone, you’ll have to have a Wi-Fi connection to use video calling features, just as you must to make and receive voice calls, too. This despite AT&T’s announcement that it would allow VOIP on its network. [...]

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  9. [...] So long as you have iPhone OS 3.0 installed on your iPhone, you should be able to receive video calls with Fring from desktop and certain Nokia phone users once you install the update. As with everything cool on the iPhone, you’ll have to have a Wi-Fi connection to use video calling features, just as you must to make and receive voice calls, too. This despite AT&T’s announcement that it would allow VOIP on its network. [...]

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  10. [...] fairly obvious that Apple doesn’t want the service on its device, and it’s looking more and more like AT&T isn’t even behind that particular decision, at least not completely. Apple and [...]

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