It's not really a suprise.
When iOS4 was release, one of the major features was the ability for applications to run in the background. Background processing benefits plenty of apps, but none more than a VoIP client... namely Skype. Yes, there was some controverse that Skype wasn't available immediately for iOS4, but they've caugh up.
But it's the quote in this article at Wired which should give every mobile operator pause: "Now you can all but replace your regular cellphone service."
With background processing, people can call your Skype number any time, completely bypassing the cellular provider. And guess what, Skype has decided to not charge for cellular calls... at least for the time being.
The new version of Skype still as yet doesn't support video calling via the front facing camera on the new iPhone 4. However, I totally agree with the comment from this post on Fierce VoIP. Apparently in the past, Skype executives have "made it clear" that quality of service is important to them and they don't have much faith in the current networks handling all they want to deliver with their Skype application. [Ed. note: my emphasis].
So interperting the comment: if they had access to a mobile network which was very fast and provided an excellent quality of service, Skype is prepared to deliver even more services and capabilities.
Ironically today AT&T reported record revenues and earnings, helped specifically by the iPhone. "AT&T said it once again activated a record number of iPhones [in the quarter]: 3.2 million." Very impressive.
So let's put all the pieces together:
- AT&T (and others) are supplying iPhones to fulfill incredible demand from consumers.
- The iPhone actively enabled VoIP and video calling with iOS4 and the iPhone 4 (multi-tasking OS, front facing camera)
- Skype, a free app, provides free Skype to Skype calling, also supports free Skype to Skype video calling, with an appropriate network
- AT&T is preparing to roll out LTE in 2011/2012.
All this comes back to my favorite topic... voice over LTE.
We know the GSMA is feverishly working on pulling together a basic set of IMS telephony specifications. Everyone I speak with agrees this work will take much longer than anyone anticipated.
Meanwhile, Skype is available for free, available today, and works great on the iPhone. What else is available today whcih provides voice over LTE? Hummm... VoLGA!
If operators don't watch out, the future of LTE voice (and video) service is going to be delivered by Apple and Skype.