After holding back the tide through 2009, it seems that AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) could no longer stall the inevitable. In quick succession, both the Sling Player and Skype have apparently been given the green light to operate on the iPhone over the operators 3G network. Sling Media’s app was unceremoniously rejected as a bandwidth hog back in May, and restrictions on Skype usage were fodder for many months in the network neutrality debates. Now the barbarians have successfully entered the castle, and the question is: now what?
The AT&T network is already straining to serve current iPhone demand. According to Andy Abramson, VoIP over 3G is no panacea anyway even without the congestion. And as for video, while the Sling Player adapts to current network congestion levels, it still has the potential to add huge amounts of bits to the network which cannot be ignored. Since other similar apps are popping up like daisies above a compost heap and each is likely to be approved as well, is AT&T going to be able to keep up? It’s one thing to earmark an extra few billion dollars to your capex budget, it’s quite another to actually install all that new gear.
And for that matter, if they do keep up does that mean their revenue from voice minutes will suffer as people shift calls to their data plans? I can’t help but think that there is going to be a major pricing shift from AT&T and Verizon soon in response.
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