Thursday, February 04, 2010

Mobile - AT&T green-lights SlingPlayer on iPhone

[cnet] It has taken almost a year, but on Thursday AT&T said it will start allowing Sling Media's SlingPlayer to work over its 3G network on the iPhone.

SlingPlayer, which redirects TV signals from a home TV over the Internet so it can be viewed on a portable device, like cell phones or laptops, is the latest application that AT&T is making available to iPhone users on its 3G network. In October, it said that it would allow voice over IP services, such as Skype, to operate on the iPhone using the 3G network. Previously, these applications could only be used over Wi-Fi connections.

Skype officials say they are still working out the kinks on their iPhone app, but that it should be available soon.

AT&T has been criticized for blocking these applications and others from its network. Critics have complained that the company has been picking and choosing which applications can be used on its wireless network in an effort to stifle competition or control the market. Consumer groups as well as Sling Media, Skype, and Google, which is trying to get its Google Voice application in the Apple App Store, have filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T has argued that it's simply protecting its wireless network. Streaming video applications, such as SlingPlayer, consume a lot of bandwidth. And the company says it must ensure the quality of service for all its customers.

But now it looks as though AT&T has had a change of heart--at least for some of these applications. An AT&T spokesman said it is changing its stance on these applications because it's motivated to 'bring customers the widest possible array of mobile applications." Specifically, the company's top wireless executive said the change was a result of working closely with Sling Media to adapt the application to work more efficiently on the 3G network.

"The key for us is Sling Media was willing to work with us to revise the app to make it more bandwidth sensitive, "Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in a statement. "They made important changes to more efficiently use 3G network bandwidth and conserve wireless spectrum so that we were able to support the app on our 3G mobile broadband network."

But the timing of the announcement is interesting, since Sling said last year that it had already made changes to its application and was willing to make more changes to make it work more harmoniously on AT&T's network. In May, after Sling was told the application could only operate via a Wi-Fi connection, David Eyler, a project manager for Sling Media told CNET that the latest version of the SlingPlayer submitted to Apple for the App Store had used technology that would cap the bit rate to ensure it was below Apple's and AT&T's threshold.

Other Sling insiders have explained that the technology was developed to adapt to changing conditions on the network to ensure a clear picture and sound. For example, when the network is congested, the Sling technology automatically adjusts the bit rate at which the video is being streamed. When more bandwidth is available, it readjusts this rate.

AT&T green-lights SlingPlayer on iPhone

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