Mobile VoIP: If you can’t beat them, join them

 

Mobile
VoIP services are growing, presenting a serious threat to many mobile
operators’ traditional services. These operators are concerned they will lose
control of voice-based services and the revenue they have become used to
receiving from it. Research companies predict that mobile VoIP users will
exceed 100 million by 2012 (Jupiter Research) and around 300 million by 2013
(InStat). The VoIP market is forecast to be $30 billion by 2015 (Frost &
Sullivan).

 

Some
service providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, 3G and Telefonica have realized
that
 mobile VoIP should be a key element in their strategy. Instead of fighting it, they decided to benefit from
it. While the first three established a partnership with Skype, Telfonica went
further this year and completed the acquisition of
 Jajah VoIP service. I
believe this is only the beginning and any mobile operator wanting to stay in
the game should plan and implement VoIP services.

 

The
way I see it,
 VoIP is a natural evolution, similar to the move from analog to digital formats
in music and from film to digital in photography. Indeed, digital formats have
taken over in many fields and there is no reason for phone calls from landline
or mobile to be different. Mobile operators’ hesitation to develop and offer
VoIP services directly to customers provides companies like Skype the
opportunity to become a VoIP service leader. Carriers who don’t plan a VOIP
strategy will find themselves left behind, with the ground free for all kinds
of competing VoIP service providers.

 

 

Because
VoIP technology’s is simple to implement, flexible and relatively low cost,
businesses are gradually migrating from traditional telephone systems to VoIP
systems. VoIP solutions have evolved into unified communications” that handle
voice, faxes, voicemail, email, video conferences and instant messaging
delivered to any device. Extending VoIP services compared to extending
 PBXs and key systems costs
less, since VoIP switches” run on PCs and Linux. A good example of public
domain software for this purpose is
 Asterisk.

 

And the success of social networks is increasing the
potential of VoIP
. People using their
social network (e.g. Facebook) from their mobile to share and communicate are
finding that in many cases, their preferred social network is replacing their
email, picture sharing services, instant messaging and chat services. This will
make offering VoIP from the same platform a natural option and the market is
ready for good and reliable VoIP mobile services. Mobile operators are already
using VoIP infrastructure directly and indirectly, and it is common for service
providers to use VoIP telephony over dedicated and public IP networks to
connect switching stations and to interconnect with other telephony network
providers.

 

VoIP,
can it be profitable?

 

So
how will mobile operators generate revenue from mobile VoIP services, and stay
profitable? When you think Skype”, it’s associated with free calls”. That’s
because Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls using a computer are free. But if
you want to call landline or mobile phones using
 Skype, you need to purchase credits or
a
 monthly
subscription
, in addition to paying the mobile operator for the data
traffic. Services such as iTunes and iApps show that people are ready to pay
for attractive services a long as they priced reasonably. When mobile operators
offer a full VoIP service as part of a bigger IP based package directly to
their customers, they can generate revenue not only from the cellular data
traffic but also from the actual user-to-user connections including voice,
video, content, applications and other value-added services.

 

The
phrase
“if you can’t beat them, join them” couldn’t be more relevant for mobile operators dealing
with VoIP these days. Sooner or later, all mobile operators will realize thatkeeping
the customer loyal by providing a positive experience is more important than
revenue from traditional voice services.

 

By
Amnon Ekstein, Amdocs
[email protected]

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