AT&T opens wireless network to Internet voice calling

WASHINGTON: US telecom giant AT&T said that Apple iPhone owners would be allowed to use Internet voice calling on its wireless network, paving the way for services such as Skype.

"Today's decision was made after evaluating our customers' expectations and use of the device compared to dozens of others we offer," said Ralph de la Vega, president and chief executive of AT&T mobility and consumer markets, on Tuesday.

AT&T, the exclusive US carrier of Apple's smartphone, said it had informed the computer titan and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of its decision to allow Voice over Internet Protocal (VoIP) calling on its third-generation (3G) wireless network.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski welcomed the move.

"When AT&T indicated, in response to the FCC's inquiry, that it would take another look at permitting VoIP on its 3G network I was encouraged," he said in a statement. "I commend AT&T's decision to open its network to VoIP.

"Opening wireless services to greater consumer choice will drive investment and innovation in the mobile marketplace," Genachowski said.

AT&T previously only allowed VoIP calling using less reliable Wi-Fi connectivity.

Skype bypasses the standard telephone network by channeling voice and video calls over the Internet. It allows users to call others free of charge and to connect with land lines or mobile devices at low rates.