Are Carriers Changing Their Tune on Mobile VoIP?

[qi:gigaom_icon_voip] If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know that wireless phone companies have had little to no time for VoIP-based applications, especially those that cut into their precious voice and SMS revenues. A few years back, T-Mobile decided to play nasty with mobile VoIP startup Truphone in the UK, and since then similar such incidents have taken place as well.

But two recent statements by carriers from different parts of the world are making me wonder if the mobile phone companies are softening their stance on mobile VoIP. Last week, Verizon (s vz) went out of its way to highlight the fact that it had tested VoIP calling on its new 4G wireless network. (The other 4G wireless company, Clearwire (s clwr), has warmed up to VoIP as well.)

And European mobile giant Telefonica O2 said today that VoIP apps can now be run over its 3G mobile networks, though only in Germany. They can be accessed by way of special Internet packs that include 5 Gb of transfers for about 25 euros ($35.21) a month.

This is a smart and logical move — especially since we’re so close to stepping into the 4G era. With the bandwidth finally available, and most companies already moving towards offering flat-rate calling plans, it’s finally time for carriers to embrace the fact that voice is just an app running on their IP networks.  This attitude shift is good for mobile VoIP startups such as Truphone and Fring.