The Death of Voice Plans? Skype Finally Comes to iPhone

by Matt Klassen on February 5, 2010

With the recent revelation that Skype will soon be available over iPhone cellular connections, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end for voice plan contracts.

 In a video released this week, David Ponsford,head of Skype’s iPhone team, said that they are working on a calling service that will deliver CD-quality sounds and free Skype-to-Skype calls between users and will be delivering it “real soon”. Further, Skype will offer significantly cheaper rates for calls made to landlines and mobiles, offering unlimited calling at a rate of about $40 per year.

The longstanding issue with Skype and other VoIP operators offering customers a reliable phone service using the phone’s data connection is that cellphone carriers, who offer restrictive voice-plan contracts as their means of making money, are left out to dry.

To quiet the complaints coming from the cellphone sector, Apple prevented app developers from creating call services that used the device’s 3G Internet connection, instead allowing them only to use the devices sub-par Wi-Fi connection. The restriction, of course, was meant to retain consumer need for cellphone carriers to provide clear, more reliable reception than Wi-Fi based call services. But it looks like those days are quickly coming to an end.

Following increased scrutiny from US regulators over anti-competitive practices, AT&T—the sole US iPhone provider—pledged late last year to remove the burdensome restriction and this past week they followed up on that promise, clearing the way for customers to ditch their voice plan subscriptions in favour of just a data plan.

Skype warned, however, that while it’s 3G-enabled app will be made available globally, cellphone carriers may still choose to restrict the service. Apple is requiring Skype and other Internet calling services to warn customers that their cellular provider may prohibit use of such features.

Enter the Canadian iPhone distributors!

In response to the announcement of Skype being made available for iPhone customers, both Bell and Telus have followed AT&T’s lead—sort of—by removing all restrictions on call services such as Skype accessing the 3G network. The twist, however, is that both companies have stated that Canadian iPhone customers will still be required to purchase voice plans, whether they use them or not. Rogers, which has distributed the iPhone in Canada for several years, was unavailable for comment.

It seems inevitable that these Canadian companies will follow the path of their American counterparts—eventually—and so we may soon be saying goodbye to restrictive contracts for good. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

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