Data Back Up: AT&T, Data Plans, and the Future of Skype

It looks as though the emperor has set out to kill the pirate.

When AT&T announced that they would be putting an overall data cap on iPhone use for those on new iPhone 4 contracts there was definitely a reaction, though it was not loud enough to hear over the frenzied consumer rush to purchase the defective iPhone.  The question as to why, in this late stage, would AT&T want to cap the data use from customers that have been spending what is already a relatively outrageous rate.  It serves to reason that since the iPhone 4 is so fetishized, as the whole "i" line has been, that they assume they can now begin raising prices without much commercial fallout.  This is really only part of the story.

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For those that have watched the diversification and attacks on the corporate model that have occurred in recent years, it has been obvious that areas like the music recording industry have been blasted in an irreparable way.  From the perspective of the people that are hoping new technology will democratize the arts in favor of the general population this will likely result in a series of positive developments as the industry has to reshape itself.  For those occupying the towers at Columbia Records, this is tantamount to a series of mortars fired over the wall that piracy built.  If record executives could have seen the writing on the wall they would have done anything in their power to stop it, which may even have included creating a division around the original iPod.

It is in the same breath that people talk about Peer-2-Peer file sharing and Bit Torrent that they tend to mention Skype.  Skype has been one of the main forces putting a series of major attacks against the telecommunications industries, finding a loophole to rob some of the power that increasingly centralized companies have had over this field.  When Skype was first introduced to the iPhone this seemed as though the most solid form of infiltration into the smart phone world was taking place, and it seems as though AT&T has seen this.  Once Skype was allowed over the 3G network there seemed as though there was a significantly viable alternative to using your standard calling line, which may end up costing you more.  That is no longer the case.

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In light of the new contract agreements with the iPhone 4 it seems as though talk time will be the last thing that most iPhone users will be concerned with.  According to Ars Technica, a five minute Skype call on the iPhone 4's 3G network cost a total of 3.3 MB (1.5 sent, and 1.8 received).  For those that have purchased less than giant data plans this is going to be the most truly costly decision, which makes the basic idea that you can save money with Skype on the 3G network impossible.  You can still head toward Wi-Fi as before, but in general this is chaining your iPhone 4, and its use, to the ground.

This is not going to kill Skype as, with what we saw in the music industry, where there is a will there is a way.  What it will do is slow it down, and be another issue of control that both AT&T and Apple have had issues with around the iPhone.  AT&T cannot fight the future forever, and unlimited data and an entire change in how we view cell phone service is on its way.  Whether or not AT&T likes it.

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