What's Behind AT&T's New VoIP Policy?

By Ian Paul, PC World |  Personal Tech, AT&T, iPhone

It looks like you'll be able to use Skype on the iPhone over a 3G connection after all. AT&T changed course on Tuesday by allowing skype to connect over the carrier's 3G network. The new decision is a complete reversal of a previous policy that restricted VoIP applications to use the iPhone's Wi-Fi connectivity only, and not the device's cellular capability.

This is a smart move for AT&T, since the carrier has to be feeling the pressure from recent U.S. government inquiriesinto the carrier's business relationship with iPhone manufacturer Apple; cries to end the company's status as the exclusive iPhone carrier in the United States; and increased competition from other smartphone brands.

AT&T on Capitol Hill

In AT&T's written statement about its new VoIP policy, the company says it informed both Apple and the FCC about its decision to allow VoIP iPhoneat&t voip apps over 3G. It's possible that AT&T was required by law to notify the FCC of any significant changes it makes to how a particular handset behaves on its network, but AT&T may also be hoping to relieve recent government interest in the iPhone.

In June, the FCC launched an investigation into handset exclusivity arrangements, which have increased in popularity sincfcce the introduction of the iPhone. The FCC became interested in exclusivity after complaints from smaller cell phone providers in rural areas prompted the U.S. Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to look into exclusivity arrangements. Although the Senate Committee didn't name a specific carrier/handset deal, the concerns relayed from Committee members to the FCC were similar to complaints against the iPhone-AT&T partnership.

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