Sweating bullets over network saturation, are we? AT&T's obviously taking a good helping of heat today over Sling's rock-and-a-hard-place decision to remove 3G streaming capability from its SlingPlayer Mobile build for the iPhone -- a decision that gets at the very heart of several hot-button issues plaguing AT&T and Apple alike -- and the carrier understandably felt the need to release an official statement to address the situation. Unfortunately, it prompts as many questions as it offers answers. It starts off simply enough, stating that apps like SlingPlayer could create congestion on the network that denies services to others -- and while a truly trivial number of users own Slingboxes, we understand what they're getting at; no amount of tweaking or fudging of a modern HSPA network can withstand the traffic onslaught generated by wildly popular streaming video services.
Here's where we start to lose our way, though. AT&T cites a portion of its wireless terms and conditions -- "Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service" -- and says that it considers "smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs." Sure, guys, but a RAZR shares 85 percent of its DNA with a PC and an iPhone shares 87 percent, so we're splitting hairs here -- never mind the fact that you've inexplicably labeled the S60-powered Nokia 6650 (which can run SlingPlayer, by the by) a dumbphone simply because it lacks a QWERTY keyboard. Furthermore, AT&T specifically points out that it doesn't restrict users from downloading streaming videos, which is the very problem SlingPlayer generates -- the upload from the user's TV on the far end is the ISP's concern, not AT&T's, and we figure that the network pressure generated by the download is roughly equivalent to watching a whole bunch of YouTube videos. It doesn't add up.
Next, the carrier uses the opportunity to pimp its extensive WiFi network and says that you're welcome to use SlingPlayer there; that's all well and good, and yes, it's cool that AT&T gives iPhone users free access to the hotspots, but it's no substitute for the mobility of streaming Sling over the WWAN, which works really freaking well -- just ask countless BlackBerry, S60, WinMo, and Palm users who are using SlingPlayer as you read this. The only material difference is that they can't be touched -- not as easily, at least, as iPhone users who are bound to the whim of Apple's singular, all-powerful clearinghouse.
Look, AT&T, just tell it like it is: you're saying your 3G network would fold like a cheap suit if these apps took off. Thing is, it already has in some places -- trust us, we've experienced it firsthand -- so let's make sure the blame gets distributed appropriately here.
Follow the break for AT&T's full statement.
"Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.
That said, we don't restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.
The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That's good news for AT&T's iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi."