AT&T: iPhone deal blocks VoIP over cellular

AT&T: iPhone deal blocks VoIP over cellular

Summary: In a letter to the FCC, AT&T acknowledged that Apple and AT&T have an agreement to block VoIP apps from using AT&T's cellular networks, but that VoIP apps that use Wi-Fi are OK. Here's a selection from the letter.

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In a letter to the FCC, AT&T acknowledged that Apple and AT&T have an agreement to block VoIP apps from using AT&T's cellular networks, but that VoIP apps that use Wi-Fi are OK. Here's a selection from the letter.

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...AT&T and Apple agreed that Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T’s wireless service (including 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi) to make VoIP calls without first obtaining AT&T’s consent. AT&T and Apple also agreed, however, that if a third party enables an iPhone to make VoIP calls using AT&T’s wireless service, Apple would have no obligation to take action against that third party.

The parties’ concurrence on this provision was particularly important in light of the risks the parties assumed in bringing the iPhone to market.

...The parties’ willingness and ability to assume the risk of their investments in the iPhone and of their pricing strategy were predicated, in significant part, on certain assumptions about the monthly service revenues that would be generated by iPhone users. In particular, both parties required assurances that the revenues from the AT&T voice plans available to iPhone customers would not be reduced by enabling VoIP calling functionality on the iPhone. Thus, AT&T and Apple agreed that Apple would not take affirmative steps to enable an iPhone to use AT&T’s wireless service to make VoIP calls.

Without this arrangement, the prices consumers pay for the iPhone – particularly the broadband-enabled iPhone 3G – would likely have been higher than they are today. ... During the course of the agreement, AT&T indicated to Apple that it does not object to Apple enabling VoIP applications for the iPhone that use Wi-Fi connectivity ... rather than AT&T’s 2G or 3G wireless data services. Although AT&T has no involvement in producing Apple’s iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), which establishes the iPhone functionalities accessible to application developers, AT&T understands that the SDK enables application providers to develop VoIP applications that use the iPhone’s Wi-Fi capabilities and that such applications are currently available in the Apple App Store.

As noted above, AT&T regularly reviews its policies regarding features and capabilities available through the devices we offer in order to provide an attractive range of options for our customers. Consistent with this approach, we plan to take a fresh look at possibly authorizing VoIP capabilities on the iPhone for use on AT&T’s 3G network. AT&T will promptly update the Commission regarding any such change in its policies.

Topics: Telcos, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones, Unified Comms, AT&T

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40 comments
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  • Ah... I'm so stuck in the 1990s...

    Give it up, wireless carriers (including AT&T). I'm not paying $40 for a 450 minute voice plan. Not even 20 cents a minute if I don't talk a lot due to my hearing impairment.
    Grayson Peddie
    • iPhone Junkies

      What did the iPhone junkies think? For those of us that were interested in the iPhone on other networks we are well aware that buying the iPhone out-right would cost $800-$850(at time of release). And here the iPhone junkie are buying a phone for $199-$299 with AT&T contract. As if that's a reasonable price for that kind of technology.

      Do people really think that phone companies dont make up for the revenue by providing services? None of this should be a surprise, you want a cheap phone then someone needs to foot the bill(AT&T in this case) to make up for the actual cost.

      ...and it is not really fair to ask AT&T to pick up the other $300-$400 dollars and expect them to be fine with you by passing their services.
      Millystone
      • An AT&T Fuze (HTC Touch Pro), without a plan is $700. Let's compare units:

        First, remember that the 16GB edition is $600 and has a 400MHz processor, but are otherwise identical. I am concentrating on the 32GB model:
        ----------------------------------------------


        One has 32GB and the other has 512MB and a MicroSD slot.

        One has a 600MHz CPU and the other has a 400MHz CPU.

        One has a ATI chipset, the other uses QualComm and whose drivers are poorly made.

        One has a 3.8" screen with the other having a 2.8" screen.

        One is 320x480 and the other is 480x640. Not so much an advantage if performance is going to be so craptacular.

        One is easy to touch, the other requires pressure to get the screen to respond should the stylus be lost. TouchFLO flows as much as the person who hasn't drank his prune juice yet.

        One is responsive, the other is very sluggish (even after the May 2009 ROM update).

        One uses a modified OS X. The other uses a modified Windows 98.

        One has a virtual keyboard that's easy to adapt to, and the other has a real keyboard - with 6mm keys that are unwieldy and add bulk.

        Both have bad battery life, but one has sleeker designed extended batteries (such as Mophie) that don't add bulk. The other turns the device into a big brick.

        All iPhone stats were followed by the Fuze.

        To say the iPhone, sans service, is a ripoff is an outright deception. The 16GB version is on par, hardware-wise (despite having more than 16x the amount of RAM), and the 32GB version blows everybody else out of the water.

        HypnoToad72
        • comparing old phones to the iPhone 3Gs

          So you compare the iPhone 3Gs with a phone that has been out for over a year(ATT acquired rights to sell the touch pro as teh Fuze long after it came out).

          ...comparing to an old phone doesn?t help your argument that iphone is better(considering you view it as equal to a year technology)

          In short here are just a couple of the flows in your argument,
          --The touch pro has infinite memory as you can spend 10 bucks and get another 16GB MicoSD card. Meaning limitless movies, videos, music and more.
          --Your argument about QualComm is opinion with no comparison facts.
          --TouchFLO is used by both devices being that apple purchased right to the technology and has rebranded it as their own in 2004.
          and the rest of your comparison is opinion.

          in short... HA! Your just a joke Apple fan boy. Does Apple pay you? If not I don?t get you people and your blind allegiance to crApple.
          Millystone
        • Wow...fanboy much?

          Wow, you are the epitome of a fanboy. Any possible advantage the fuze might have is dismissed for some other unrelated reason. The keyboard and 640x480 alone puts it in a different category from an iPhone.

          I say this because I own BOTH devices. I have absolutely no reason to be more loyal to one than the other. Let's face it, the iPhone is a toy/entertainment device. Editing documents and switching between office applications is TERRIBLE on the iPhone. You can't even multitask without jailbreaking. It still has a long way to go software-wise in competing with business-centered applications.

          I reach for my Touch Pro whenever I need to start sending emails and editing word files and excel reports. Copy and pasting snippets and quotes and sending them off to email is fast and effortless. Forget about doing that on the iPhone. Its not always about hardware and features.

          And no, the keyboard is not awkward. I wear large-size gloves and type at around 60 WPM on the hardware keyboard, which is not bad at all.

          Try comparing the iPhone to the Touch Pro 2. The new contact-centered features are just amazing, and if the iPhone had similar functionality it would be great.
          benheck929
      • AT&T & Apple are the real bad guys here...

        Let's stop the illusion... the real bad guys here are AT&T and Apple...

        iPhone - yep, its a great machine. no doubt about it. but AT&T & Apple FORCING Users to get a $30 data plan mandatory is UNHEARD of... why are they forcing you to buy a data plan ? no other phone in the world forces you to get a data plan. both are banking on the users desire for the phone to rip them off...

        and then AT&T goes further into meddling with the users ability to use VOIP to cut on their costs or use inexpensive data calls... why ? again, does not exist elsewhere...

        And further - AT&T gives you "unlimited" data plan but then block any streaming video applications like SlingBox... and worse, any application over 10MB can't be downloaded from the Itunes store via 3G... Real amzing...

        And then Apple kills anything innovating that might help users get more bang for the buck by denying many creative applications...

        so... Iphone is great but Apple and AT&T really really suck... 2 bad corporation abusing the users trust due to their desire to use the iPhone. so please, don't defend them, they are the real villans.
        and then Apple
        WinMacLinux
  • RE: AT&T: iPhone deal blocks VoIP over cellular

    This limitation on the iPhone should have been disclosed to
    iPhone purchasers before they purchased an iPhone, not
    afterwards! This will make the class action lawyers very
    happy. What were these companies thinking?
    fluidic
    • Actually, it was....

      No where in the stats for the iPhone do I see the word VoIP capable. ..and I never saw ads or was told that it could do VoIP. These are assumptions on peoples own part.
      Millystone
      • But does it say it can do internet?

        VoIP is just an internet connection between two apps. The iPhone can do that, right?

        If internet is going to be limited, they should state so. I suppose if they stated that there were general limitations but did not specify, then they would have covered their butts. But they did not do at least that, then I could see them getting into hot water over this.

        Mind you, I do not have a problem with this limitation, as long as it was made clear to the customer that these limitations were in place (or could be put into place at any time). AT&T has every right to manage their network as they see fit. And you do have the option of using a WiFi network as an alternative.
        Michael Kelly
        • Most cell phones do internet... Do you assume they can do VOIP???

          We should complain to sanyo, and nokia, and
          motorola, etc. They are somehow blocking us
          from doing VOIP... Sue them all.. They claim to
          sell internet capable phones... The nerve of
          those unscrupulous deceivers.

          The iPhone was never sold with any hint of VOIP
          nor a VOIP app...

          How many cell phones have a VOIP app???

          hmmmmm???
          i8thecat
          • Mine does

            The Android OS does give you the freedom to install what you want. And I can use it over T-Mobile with the understanding that if I go over 5 GB of data per month I have to pay additional fees. There are also other internet phones that allow you to tether to a laptop to achieve the same thing.

            Internet capable is not the same thing as full internet. Which is why the extent of the internet capability has to be explained to the customer in writing when the contract is signed.
            Michael Kelly
  • RE: AT&T: iPhone deal blocks VoIP over cellular

    This limitation on the iPhone should have been disclosed to
    iPhone purchasers before we purchased an iPhone, not
    afterwards! This will make the class action lawyers very
    happy. What were these companies thinking?
    fluidic
  • Why buy it if you want to use VOIP

    You are paying big bucks for AT&T iPhone plan so it kind of stupid to spend money on a plan and not use it.

    Randalllind
    • International calls

      AT&T gouges on international calls, even when it allows you to make them in the first place. Skype and Google Voice are much cheaper. I use Skype for all my international calls as they have unlimited plans for Europe where my wife and I come from.
      fazalmajid
  • Wireless net neutrality

    The FCC needs to fully address the issue of net neutrality for applications & services on wireless networks, once & for all.

    "Wired" broadband service providers do not:
    1. restrict what software you can install on your PC.
    2. restrict what data you can send/receive over your broadband connection.

    Why are "wireless" broadband service providers allowed to do this?

    The FCC should also provide guidance as to the conditions under which an app rejection may be appropriate:
    e.g.
    - if it enables/encourages illegal activities (e.g. child pornography).
    - if an application is of insufficient quality to be useful (e.g. continuous crashing/errors).
    - if an application causes a device to deviate from specification (e.g. changes the transmit frequency).
    linuser
    • Sorry read your Comcast/Cox/TWC agreement

      >"Wired" broadband service providers do not:
      1. restrict what software you can install on your PC.
      2. restrict what data you can send/receive over your broadband connection.<

      All of the major broadband providers have terms in their service agreements that do EXACTLY what you are describing. And several of them ACTIVELY manage what data you can send/receive over your connection.

      In most cases, they do so to control illicit activity (like spamming, DDoS attacks, etc.) or to control activity that uses their service beyond what they want to allow (like P2P, hosting, etc.)

      In short, there is no "net neutrality" guaranteed by wired providers, just an fairly easy-going set of policies by today's providers. That could change at any time, and most likely will change in the next two years.
      terry flores
    • Thats like...

      ...someone paving a road for two communities to join and then not being able to stop dual axle cars from ripping down your road. AT&T made the investment to connect you to the web, they need a return on that investment.

      If you dont like it, dont by the iPhone, the Windows Mobile devices have TONs of third party apps that will let you VoIP.
      Millystone
  • RE: AT&T: iPhone deal blocks VoIP over cellular

    Amazing! The government has for years forced industry to help the start-ups. Several industries have been exempt because of heavy political lobbying - cable TV and cellular companies to be sure. There is absolutely no reason why satellite TV should be held back (except the cable industry would lose big bucks) same with cellular blocking VOIP - they would lose bucks on inflated long distance and international billing. It's all about the dollar - never the customer.
    jwmort
    • They could switch to a data plan for....

      They could switch to a data plan for iPhone customers. You know, charge by the megabit. Infact, I think they should allow VoIP and say "fine, you want VoIP? You can have it. But we're switching you to a data plan." I think they would make more money on it too.
      Millystone
      • well thats not right

        "they would make more money on it too" excuse me, sounds like you dont have a clue ? i pay $50 for my iphone data plan to download megabytes of data per month, thats more then i pay for my broadband internet at home on which i can download gigabytes with out any restrictions. How much do you suggest we pay for the crapy 3g connection $100 maybe $200??
        fire115