15 Comments

Summary:

Even though Apple and AT&T are allowing VoIP calls over 3G network, Skype says it is not going to offer an upgrade before it can offer high-quality voice. Skype is also looking at developing a version of Skype for the Apple iPad as well.

While Apple and AT&T have started allowing VoIP apps on the iPhone to use the 3G data network, it seems like the big kahuna, Skype, is staying away from making any such move for now, arguing it wants to wait till it can give decent audio performance. From the Skype blog:

You may have seen other apps offering calls over 3G, but we’re holding ours back for a little bit longer. Why? So that we can give you the very best audio quality we can. When our 3G-capable Skype for iPhone app is released, it’ll let you make calls in wideband audio, giving you greater clarity and fidelity – because that’s what you expect from Skype.

In other words, don’t expect Skype to offer a version that allows calls over 3G in the near term, though the company had made it abundantly clear that it will be releasing a 3g version of the app . We had earlier pointed out that Skype over 3G wasn’t working.

Earlier this year, thanks to our friends Andy Abramson and Pat Phelan, we offered up an alternative theory about VoIP over 3G : “The voice-over-3G experience is so bad, it makes sense for Apple, AT&T and others to not even bother with VoIP over 3G.” Skype it seems is merely agreeing with that alternative theory and making sure that its app actually works as expected over 3G connections.

Skype is also looking at developing a version of Skype for the Apple iPad. As the same blog post notes:

Last Thursday, Apple introduced the iPad, which we’re very excited about here at Skype. David Ponsford, who features in the video above, and his team are reviewing the device and its specs, and you can expect to hear more from us about Skype for iPad in due course. What does this have to do with calling over 3G? The SDK (Software Development Kit) which Apple provides to developers like Skype has been upgraded for the iPad. The new version, 3.2, removes the restrictions on calling over 3G, which is great news.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Actually the way I read their comment was that a 3G capable Skype app was in the works but it is going to a bit later. Not a blanket no as your comment above seems to imply.

    For the quality issue – if you listen to the interview they are explicitly working on a “call quality indicator” which would be most useful for 3g calls. (It would help with WiFi of course but probably more beneficial given the issues with 3g)

    “..
    we’re holding ours back for a little bit longer. Why? So that we can give you the very best audio quality we can. When our 3G-capable Skype for iPhone app is released, it’ll let you make calls in wideband audio,..”

    BTW I’ve tested both the iCall and Fring for VoiP on 3G on the iPhone and I can say that with enough bandwidth it is definitely good. But without enough you definitely have problems.

    1. Yeah,

      I see your point and I updated the post to clarify that. Sorry for not being clear enough. I updated the headline to reflect that.

  2. Not so sure about that Om, over on the skype blog (http://bit.ly/aBJMG0) they say real_soon_now – and they seem to mean it.

    The key component (and a cause of the delay I believe) is the SILK codec.
    SILK can adapt to make ‘best-use’ of the available network, by tuning the encoder on-the-fly during to use the available bandwidth and correct for the prevailing packet loss.
    This should help Skype deliver a better experience over 3g than services that use a less forgiving codec and mitigate the problems Andy and Pat mentioned.

  3. Those of us with actual 3G networks (read anyone outside the United States) are getting impatient. Why should the fact that AT&T provides a junky, quasi-3G network limit the rest of us? Skype is clearly holding back because they feel that AT&T 3G can’t provide an adequate experience, but this is not a problem with 3G – it’s a problem with AT&T.

    I made a Skype conference call to 3 people over 3G (Bell Mobility Canada HSPA+) yesterday. No issues, no lag, excellent call quality.

    I’ve made similar calls using Rogers (HSPA+ as well).

    Strange to say out loud but Canada is literally a half-decade ahead of the US in terms of wireless capability right now.

  4. We’ve got the cart before the horse.

    We consumers must have control of our telephone numbers and have the ENUM standard put in place BEFORE any VoIP gets enabled for mobile.

    “…ENUM standard (RFC 3761) demands that ENUM is a public service and that the control of the telephone number lies in the hands of the end-user. For this reason, it’s known as “Public-” or “User ENUM.” This is all in line with the Internet’s user- and endpoint-centric creed.”

    http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2010/01/enum-dragging-telephone-numbers-into-the-internet-age.ars/2

    Mobile VoIP will end in tears without ENUM.

  5. Skype on the iPhone over AT&T 3G service sounds just fine to me.

    I’ve got a jailbroken iPhone running “3G Unrestrictor”, a handy little background service that removes Apple’s lockdown of certain apps from using 3G for network connectivity.

    Skype works just fine with this hack, and sounds great. Now that AT&T is allowing VOIP over 3G, I don’t even feel guilty about using it anymore. ;-)

  6. Er?!?! I might be missing something here, but isn’t that a Skype app I have on my 2G iPhone? Or is it because that one doesn’t work on the 3G/S version? Help me out please.

  7. Forget it, I just connected the missing link. 3G, of course, we need wifi to make calls via the app. Forget my previous, (very) silly post.

  8. it means skype can not use G729, and they don’t have anything nearly as good

  9. I think you all forgetting one other factor in the iPhone vs iPad Skype-gate: iPad’s are intended to be used in your couch potato mode.

    You’ll be sitting down and devoting your attention to it and likely to not be in motion.

    Those that use Skype on 3G and find it works great are (if you look above) sitting at their desks. Try said experiment in a car at 55MPH and see what happens. The cellular network has to do disruptive things that apps have to be tolerant of to move your data from one cell to another.

    If you go look at the prefs for Sipdroid on Android you’ll see they have different prefs for allowing use over 3G, EDGE and Wifi. I haven’t met and app yet that can handle bouncing from EDGE to 3G because most networks don’t preserve your IP when switching, you have to totally reset the VoIP path for the new IP (which usually involves: redialing).

    Then of course you can get into the lovely discussion about how many packets at&t’s backhaul network drops. Or you can simply enjoy my geeky at&t tag line: more bars to fewer tubes!

  10. I can’t help thinking that the infrastructure needs to catch up with the applications here. In the UK, mobile broadband is still overpriced and insufficient quality for any serious user. Telecoms infrastructure has always been a black hole for profit – Apple have been smart to steer clear.

Comments have been disabled for this post