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Official: AT&T Prevented SlingMedia Player from Running on 3G

Looks like our friend Phil over at WMExperts was right all along, Engadget has the scoop, and it's pretty much what we expected. AT&T thinks their 3G network is just too fragile to handle the iPhone running SlingPlayer:

"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.

Check out the Engagdet link above for the full statement, which includes the hollow flattery of their considering the iPhone less a smartphone and more a computer...

What about Windows Mobile running SlingPlayer, you may ask? Why is that okay? They think it might be too difficult to police hundreds of individuals side-loading the application, whereas the App Store -- controlled totally by Apple -- is only a one phone call ban away.

However, the iPhone is also an unprecedented consumer success with millions of users on AT&T, using never-before-seen levels of mobile data, and proven track record for taking down AT&T's -- again fragile -- network.

Fear is seldom rationale. We're guessing AT&T is banning first, asking questions later. It's much easier to take the heat for preventing it now, then allowing it, seeing Sling adoption rise, network traffic suffer, and taking even more heat for removing it later (or -- gasp! -- having to build out their network reliability faster).

What's your take?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 51 comments. Add yours.

Danny Rodri says:

This is wrong in many levels. I'm so glad I don't use Sling, I would be pist.

Rich says:

Its not fair that the iPhone gets policed while other platforms get an "all you can eat" plan on their phones. We pay for unlimited data, but are micromanaged on how we can use that data.
I also think $30 is a bit much for an app that is limited to wifi when Sling positions the service as a use anywhere convienence. $30 would be ok if AT&T didnt cripple the app.

dloveprod says:

Thank goodness they didn't do this to orb

travist6983 says:

@danny that's why I use orb instead no expensive box hooked up to tv just my media center of which is a must

jose says:

It's a matter of priority.
Communication or Entertainment?

Christopher says:

It's unfortunate but at the same time understandable. We iPhone users give AT&T a lot of grief about the fragility of their network but at the same time we have to remember how quickly the technology changes. Their EDGE network went into national service in the early part of the decade now their 3G network bears the brunt of the workload and soon they're going to begin the task of replacing EDGE with 4G. How good can any one network get when it has to be replaced so quickly?
Keep in mind, the alternative to banning bandwidth consuming apps outright is to end unlimited data plans and charge customers per gb, mb or kb to guarentee that everyone gets a fair share of the network.

Memnautikus says:

What is orb? How does that work?

acarpenter says:

I really believe this is going to hurt sells. $30 and no 3g? I can see $10 at the most! Way over priced for a crippled app.

joeblow84 says:

Slingplayer is now available in the US appstore (11:23pm EDT)

frog says:

Seems a bit expensive.

Danny Rodri says:

@Melvin I think Orb let's you stream ALL your media you already own, to your device of preference.

taylorh says:

I'm going with ban first, asking questions later. I think they'll quietly allow an update with 3G support when things quiet down... eventually.
It'll be a while.

PirateNinja says:

Iphone + Sling = EPIC
Sling - 3G = EPIC FAIL!!!!

dloveprod says:

orb also lets you stream tv as long as you have a media center or tv tuner installed

bill says:

I love new tech but I have to agree with the Evil Empire on this one. In many places their network is already struggling. Not all iPhone owners are into Sling, but we all want to email and browse the web. I don't want Sling use getting in the way of that. I realize it's unfair since other phones don't have this restriction, but the iPhone is different in that it has the app store plus a massive user base. I just think this is the way it has to be right now.

Al says:

It'd be nice if they took some of this money that is pouring into att and used it to make their network less fragile. I'm sure they do that to an extent but it seems like they are down all of the time. I wonder how many people are jailbreaking solely to use this over 3G.

iamse7en says:

I can confirm that this works fabulously over 3G!
Jailbreak, install VoiPover3G, then replace with a modified VoiPover3G.plist, respring, and it works flawlessly!
More info here:

icebike says:


I love new tech but I have to agree with the Evil Empire on this one. In many places their network is already struggling. Not all iPhone owners are into Sling, but we all want to email and browse the web.

Well said. At last someone with a lick of sense.
Why go somewhere ELSE to watch tv from your home on your iphone?
Watch TV on your iphone at home using your own wifi, not bandwidth we all have to share.

K says:

I simply don't need to watch TV that bad that I need to watch it on my iPhone. And I do alot of stuff on my iphone. If you can't wait till you get home to watch something on TV you have more problems than no 3G for Sling. There is so much other stuff that you can do on your iPhone if your board. ie watch a movie, listen to music, play a game, do your taxes...... Stop trying to eat up every bit of bandwidth you can with every app you can!

KC says:

I don't agree with it but when I need 3G (which is rare as wifi is everywhere I go) I can run Wifi router on my old Windows Mobile phone and then use the Iphone / Sling via wifi. Needs 2 SIM cards (which I've got) and means my old WinMob phone get a little bit of use!

Steve says:

@bill @icebike
Same thing I agreed with yesterday. Except yesterday, for some strange reason, it resulted in being called a "moron" by some child. :lol:

LollipopJones says:

AT&T's new plan to partition their network by making many devices (outside of the iPhone and Bold) use the 2g network for voice and only use 3g when they are using Data will help relieve their 3g Network.

cyberbob says:

@Steve@Bill and others with this "who needs TV on their cell phone?" mentality. Your statements are the equivalent of saying "Who needs to surf the web on their phone. Or email. Or text for that matter when you can just make a call".
The point of the rants in this forum are that AT&T is a weak network and never should have taken on a media centric device they couldn't handle. Additionally, AT&T continues to push the device and are doing their best to hold on to their exclusivity of the iPhone, yet they don't really have the network to support it. Forget about Sling for a minute. Just a couple of months ago, there were blogs all over the place where AT&T's network was crashing just from large gatherings of iPhone users at tech conventions.
So the rants against AT&T are legit. They have no business pushing out millions of devices they can't support, limiting what one ONE group of phone users can do with their devices, and then try to remain the EXCLUSIVE carrier of said device. If they want to play, they need to pay and get the network up to speed. Period. So I don't see how you guys can defend them when they practically admit their data network is garbage.
@Steve directly. Yes I called you a moron. Get over it and stop crying about it already. You have already returned the name calling several times over and now you just sound like a little beach. People want to do at much as they can with a portable smartphone, media centric device and not be limited to what YOU think is excessive. If you can't understand that, then you just prove I wasn't wrong about you being a moron.

cyberbob says:

K Says:
May 13th, 2009 at 5:23 am
I simply don’t need to watch TV that bad that I need to watch it on my iPhone. And I do alot of stuff on my iphone. If you can’t wait till you get home to watch something on TV you have more problems than no 3G for Sling. There is so much other stuff that you can do on your iPhone if your board. ie watch a movie, listen to music, play a game, do your taxes…… Stop trying to eat up every bit of bandwidth you can with every app you can!
What are you the bandwidth police? It's none of your business what we do with the UNLIMITED data that we are supposed to have on our iPhone plans.

jasondeno says:

I agreed to pay AT&T $30 per month for Unlimited Data. Given their definition of Unlimited, I've changed my definition of dollars. By dollars, I actually meant black jelly beans- I consider AT&T more resembles a child than a corporation in that they have the same mentality and attributes.

Steve says:

I see Evilhomer's back again, no doubt with more evil name-calling and evil childish insults because he hates adults. As if I would bother reading his useless opinions. :lol:

cyberbob says:

@Steve: And yet you do.... It's amusing to see that you seem to not be able to comment here anymore without mentioning how I hurt your widdle feewings...

mikenyc2 says:

Sorry guys and gals. I have to agree with Evilhomer on this one. UNLIMITED has only one meaning. at&t knowing sold us a plan that they can't support. I am actually surprised there isn't a class action suit yet. Has anyone ever heard of false advertising? Bait and switch? And st&t continue to false advertise this UNLIMITED data plan.
First we chould tether because the iPhone would not be the main data device (the computer would be). Now with Sling, the iPhone WOULD be the main data device and yet we are STILL limited in out data usage.
I understand the infrastructure isn;t there yet. But then, DON'T SELL IT AS UNLIMITED!!
Where is my lawyer??

Fraydog says:

If only Verizon would have went with UMTS over Ev-Do... :(

mikenyc2 says:

god, I ahve to read before I submit. Here is the corrected typos
Sorry guys and gals. I have to agree with Evilhomer on this one. UNLIMITED has only one meaning. at&t knowingly sold us a plan that they can’t support. I am actually surprised there isn’t a class action suit yet. Has anyone ever heard of false advertising? Bait and switch? And at&t continues to false advertise this UNLIMITED data plan.
First we chouldn't tether because the iPhone would not be the main data device (the computer would be). Now with Sling, the iPhone WOULD be the main data device and yet we are STILL limited in our data usage.
I understand the infrastructure isn't there yet. But then, DON’T SELL IT AS UNLIMITED!!
Where is my lawyer??
Hope this made more sense. sorry.

jsbull says:

@K and @PrettyMuchAll: I agree with Evilhomer in the sense that no one here has the right to condemn someone else for how they use their phone. If you don't have an hour long train commute, or you don't travel for business 4 days per week, you don't understand some other people's reasons for wanting/needing tv on their phones.
@Icebike: Why would anyone watch their sling over their iPhone on their home Wifi??? Why not watch the TV? I would hope it's bigger.
@Evilhomer: You said, "Just a couple of months ago, there were blogs all over the place where AT&T’s network was crashing just from large gatherings of iPhone users at tech conventions."
I've got one worse. I live in Fayetteville, AR (population 70K). At each Arkansas Razorback Football game, AT&T cell phones are dead from about 3 hours before the game until 1.5 hours after it. It makes it impossible to find friends at other tailgates. I was recently at a Dallas Stars game in downtown Dallas and service was out the whole game --- DOWNTOWN DALLAS!!! I can understand a tech convention more than a college football game or a small event in downtown Dallas.

cardfan says:

What's troubling is that Apple gives AT&T a say in the app approval dept.
I'm going with the Pre. And although i like Sprint's network better, in no way would i want Sprint having input on what apps i can install. In any case, hopefully you can sideload palm apps without them being signed or approved by palm. If not, it'll be another walled garden.
Because that's the main issue here. Apple's approval in the only store where you can officially buy iphone apps has caused this. I have a hard time believing any other US carrier wouldn't do the same if they had the iphone.
Apple could've approved it citing that its available on other smartphones that run on AT&T and has been for years. And put the ball in AT&T's court.

Ed says:

You may think you pay $30 - $40 for unlimited data service, but think again. You pay $28 - $38 for AT&T debt reduction and $2 for unlimited service.
AT&T assumed massive debt in the takeover of Cingular (and the debt left over from old AT&T Wireless and all the other players consumed by the corporate desire to dominate the market.) Paying-off the debt service on all this corporate takeover activity consumes more of your monthly subscription than any other component of your bill.
With so little left over, the capital to invest in improving the network is simply not up to the task. Any dream of 4G service from AT&T will be a dream for quite some time.

Mike says:

If any iPhone user's want to get out of their contract early, AT&T just gave you the out. Your contract clearly states that you can cancel without fee if AT&T makes a material breach of the terms. Limiting data on an "Unlimited" data plan is a clear material breach of terms and if AT&T refuses to allow you to leave without fee, just write your local Attorney General and watch how fast they change their tune.
While I understand AT&T's point about not wanting a sub-group of users to limit the bandwidth on the rest of the users, I cannot stress enough how Windows users are streaming Sling media right now. So apparently it's ok for the iPhone people to deal with a network made fragile by all the bandwidth being eaten by the Windows devices while being denied the same functionality as other users.
The Slingbox people aren't all that innocent either. They could have offered a discount price knowing that they are providing only half a mobile app. $10 is the most I'll pay, if they don't lower it and AT&T (and Apple) don't start giving iPhone people the same rights as other users then I'll be looking at another network and an Android.

cardfan says:

If i was Sling, i'd keep the price where it is. Start at what you traditionally charge (which they are) and work from there. Sales should determine what they do, not missing features. Many iphone users will never miss what they never had (slinging in 3G).

John says:

I don't understand why Slingmedia can sue AT&T for having a double standard with Windows Mobile, Blackberry etc.

icebike says:

ATT did exactly what every other ISP did in selling you an unlimited plan on a shared network, and it has withstood the court challenges everywhere.
You failed to read the fine print.
It is PATENTLY OBVIOUS to the most casual observer that it is physically impossible to serve high-bandwidth streaming video to 17million iPhone users at the same time.
No carrier has this. You wouldn't want to pay for the the network that could do this. There isn't enough radio spectrum to handle it.
Its a shared resource. You don't have a dedicated pipe running to your phone. No carrier in the world provides that.
Every cell tower can service only so many phones at once. The entire system is built around the fact that people are on for a little while and off for the vast majority of the time.
Even browsing the web, your traffic is bursty. The url request goes out, the page comes in, and there is no persistent connection or continuous data transfer while you read the page. Other users get a chance to use those same tower channels while you read.
Streaming of ANYTHING is totally different. It occupies a transmitter for a long time. But music and even YouTube is pretty low bandwidth. However, Streaming Plus HighBandwidth is really abusive of other users on a shared network.
Someday we may have networks with the bandwidth to handle this, but today is not that day.

icebike says:

Yeah, the double standard is pretty odd. I'd like to see the explanation for that.
It still does not rise to the level of an actionable act.

mikenyc2 says:

I understand what you say. And I even agree that at&t has limitations on their network. I do understand that. It is obvious to everyone. What is a shame and discredits at&t in my eyes is the UNLIMITED selling point. Why do they continue to sell their service with that sales pitch? I boggles the mind. How can they get away with it? How can they NOT be sued? How can they win the argument? It is clearly false advertising? Why doesn't a judge give a cease and desist order on the unlimited plans?

Duh says:

Um first poster... Pist is spelled "pissed". Orb over 3g comes in handy every once in awhile. Worth the 9.99. Certainly not worth any more than that let alone tripple and no 3g access. Thank you apple and AT&T for not allowing sling on 3g to interfere with my orb 3g signal LOL!!! Ok gotta get back to wheel of fortune for my train ride home.

Steve says:

What false advertising? AT&T calls it "Unlimited Data because it currently IS. Guess what? You have unlimited data! Go ahead and use 20GB or 30GB next month and see what happens to your bill - nothing. They will not bill you any more than anyone else because it's in your contract and because they don't have to worry about most people ever coming close to using that much.
So, why can AT&T currently offer unlimited data? Umm... because they block apps like Sling Player from being used by millions of people so ALL OF US can keep unlimited data! :roll:
If they allowed every useless couch potato to watch TV all day from everyhere, they'd have to stop offering unlimited data to sane people who have work to do.
If you used Sling on 3G and AT&T cut you off, then you'd have a case. But since there ISN'T Sling on 3G, you continue having unlimited data and have NO case.
It's not complicated.
I hope no one in this Sling crowd ever considers practicing law. :roll:

K says:

@ mike, icebike, john, steve
To the rest of you, go cry and watch TV on some other netwok. Sling is not being allowed to run on 3G with the iphone end of story.

redbeard says:

If anybody thinks that we can't get nice streaming LIVE television right now on the iphone, you need to go install the free app called "France 24". It's a 24 hour French news station that has an English feed that streams over 3g better than anything else I've ever seen, it works amazingly well, try it out, it's free!
I've ben wondering why other stations aren't making similar apps, maybe that's what we'll have to wait for? I'd be happy with about ten of the big ones, comedy central, discovery channel, speed channel, stuff like that.. Although I'd still rather have everything, don't they get live streaming tv in South Korea on all cell phones? Found it >>
Why are we so behind other countries?

Jason says:

Wouldn't YouTube be the same thing? They allow that!!! How much of a kickback does AT&T get to allow that...which would also cripple the network if all iPhone users use it at the same time. But, they don't...and they wouldn't all use then slingbox app at the same time either. This is just AT&T stopping something now that THEY plan on offering in some form later...for a fee I'm sure.

sircutbreaker says:

just jailbreak the phone....

Joe G former Verizon user says:

I'm sorry I gave up on Verizon,I was able to view my Slingbox on my Laptop using their broadband cards.
Apple should take the App off their site instead of allowing people to download it at $30. a pop,only to find out it is worthless on the 3G phones.

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