Previously, Apple has blocked such uses of the 3G network, forcing people to use Wi-Fi for such connections. For example, VoIP providers are required to force their applications to use Wi-Fi before submitting them to Apple for approval. In addition, the first release of OrbLive for iPhone also had this restriction.
Because of Orb’s approval, it may have a chilling effect on Apple’s ability to restrain others, such as Slingbox, from following suit. If Apple were to permit OrbLive to stream TV live, and block Slingbox, that would be a clear, illegal, anti-competitive business practice. Apple maintains monopoly control over what applications are published and distributed to iPhone, a legally suspect process which we have covered previously.
It may also be possible that the update was approved by mistake. Apple previously approved NetShare, an internet sharing application, which permitted iPhone to sling its internet connection to notebooks and other Wi-Fi connected devices. However, hours after being posted on the App Store, and thousands of purchases, Apple quickly removed the application. Months later, Apple informed NetShare’s developers that the application would not be permitted on the App Store.
The impact of this application is questionable, if thousands of users began streaming Live TV 24/7, it could have a crippling effect on some AT&T markets. AT&T continues to suffer capacity and local-loop bandwidth issues in some areas of their 3G network, largely due to the expanded bandwidth usage of iPhone and iPhone 3G.