Common sense says that it will only be a matter of time before VoIP finds a home on 3G networks. But, according to this GigaOm piece, it isn't such a sure thing, at least in the short term. Writes author Don Reisinger:
On one hand, VoIP providers are espousing the benefits of VoIP over a 3G network, saying it's what customers really want. On the other hand, few carriers have loosened their grips on their networks, and many handset makers are cognizant of the fact that so far, VoIP over 3G loses much of its allure once due to quality issues.
The prospect of VoIP on 3G networks seems to be a case of a compelling new approach threatening an incumbent technology saddled with a less attractive business case-and the incumbent not knowing quite how to react.
Using VoIP on 3G could cut costs for end users by enabling them to talk via unlimited data plans instead of using expensive cellular minutes. The question going forward is whether 3G carriers will cooperate with VoIP providers or throw up roadblocks.
The GigaOm piece reports that at least some major carriers are threatening to charge VoIP providers, which would seem to eliminate the current advantage VoIP enjoys. VoIP providers, the story says, want to convince carriers that they would benefit from allowing them to provide VoIP system under the current structure.
There certainly is a lot of talk on this topic, and there seems to be a good deal of experimentation. Network providers have to be onboard with such projects, and-according to the GigaOm piece-they currently are showing considerable resistance. As usual, Apple finds itself in the middle of the action. 9to5 Mac says that Apple is blocking VoIP on the iPhone. The writer points out that when Apple runs this type of interference, it generally is an indication that the company is readying its own initiative.
It's not a technical issue. Andy Abramson says a "jail broken" iPhone will support VoIP over 3G. He writes that if the proper technical tweaking is done, the device can treat the 3G network as if it is Wi-Fi. Abramson mentions that this can presumably be done to enable services such as Skype, Fring, SiPhone and Truphone. He adds that the overall quality is not outstanding.
The status of VoIP on 3G networks is a bit cloudy now. But the future is perfectly clear: These networks will offer VoIP. Wireless carriers are best advised to prepare, since supporting this type of service will be a competitive advantage over recalcitrant networks.