Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mobile VoIP, who will win

Mobile VoIP has started to gain momentum. Thanks to mobile VoIP startups like Mig33, truphone and Fring for being the trend setters in the mobile VoIP arena. Nevertheless, big operators are on a close watch out for these companies and the moment they sense any threat in their voice revenue, they will fight tooth and nail to block these guys. So here is my take on this- either operators can block these third party apps from using their wireless data bandwidth for voice calls or embrace the mobile VoIP technology and provide innovative service on top of wireless data backbone. T-Mobile took the latter approach by launching their dual mode UMA based WI-FI voice convergence using their own hot spots. Bottom line- Mobile VoIP is going to stay and will survive either way.

Mobile p2p voice traffic over wireless data network is the biggest threat to the operator. Consumers with an unlimited wireless data package can use the data bandwidth for unlimited voice calling. This is going to be a big drain in the operator’s voice revenue. Come to think about it, it’s even more challenging for the operators to milk the enterprise market that makes up most of their voice revenue. With WI-FI and unlimited data plan, enterprise users can now pay less for more voice minutes. Wireless data network can be misused for voice calls by using independent third party applications. Although, there are still some concerns about the bandwidth requirement for VoIP traffic on wireless data side. Though evdo-revA, umts HSPA (both uplink and downlink) can support a reasonable good voice quality, it’s still not yet there. Hopefully, with WIMAX, HSPA and LTE initiatives, voice over wireless data backbone should become a reality.

Some operators are reluctant to move their voice from TDM to IP backbone. Despite the fact that IMS was meant to move all the services including voice to IP network, I doubt some of the operators are taking that route. Having said that, with the mounting competition from independent startups that are providing mobile VOIP, operators will eventually catch up and for sure rule this space. Is that a bad news for all these startup’s- don’t think so, as long as these startups have some niche features supported other than the cheap VoIP calling they will do good. My guess is, in a long run, these startups shall be acquired by handset vendors or some big Telco vendor’s.

Here is the Report from disruptive analysis about mobile VoIP uptake. According to the report, mobile VoIPo3g and VoWLAN are going to play a bigger role in the entire operator’s eco system. It forecasts, 255 million active VoIPo3G users by the end of 2012. Man that’s a lot of mobile VoIP users. Operators please wake up!

Some highlights of the report:
• The use of VoIP over 3G networks is inevitable in the medium term, as cellular operators move towards future all-IP systems like LTE & UMB.
• Operators will deploy VoIP to improve voice capacity, gain synergies from FMC networks and counter competition from WiMAX or other VoIP providers.
• VoIPo3G will be more important than VoWLAN, for operators and 3rd parties.
• Disruptive Analysis forecasts 255m active VoIPo3G users by the end of 2012, with the figure dominated by mobile operators’ own 3.5G+ voice services.
• Despite this growth, penetration will still be below 10% of total global mobile subscribers, and around 20% of all 3G+ users, by 2012.
• Even where VoIPo3G is deployed, circuit voice will still endure for years. Few users will see all their voice traffic transfer to IP; handovers will be critical.
• The key catalysts for independent VoIPo3G are the increasing penetration of smartphones, coupled with the growing availability of flatrate 3G data tariffs.
• Too much emphasis is placed by 3GPP on unproven ‘multimedia’ telephony concepts rather than ‘plain’ VoIPo3G.
• It will be more important to embed mobile VoIP into new devices, services or web applications (Voice 2.0) than adding video or other media streams.
• Improved indoor coverage of 3G through femtocells may catalyse VoIPo3G.
• HSPA+ will be a major VoIP platform, especially for operators without sufficient spectrum allocations to roll out LTE.

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Anonymous said...

it's mig33, not migg3 :)


omfut said...

Hi Mike:
Thanks for pointing out, i have update the article.


Mark (Mobivox) said...

I'm biased here, but my bet is on Mobivox. It will be a long time before even a small % of the World's 3 billion mobile phones are 3G or anything that touches the data layer. Till then, mobivox works on any phone and delivers VoIP over PSTN.

omfut said...

Hi Mark:
You are right; operators have invested billions of dollars in building voice network backbone. I'm positive; it’s going to stay like this for some more time. Operators will use 3G and 4G for more data VAS than voice. 3G phone's shall be used for VAS than voice.
I have tried mobivox application, and it works just great. To me, feature is more important than the underlying technology. Mobivox has some great features and that is what I like. I’m sure supporting IP from mobile than TDM should not be that big of a deal. You guys rock! I love the skype interface. Wish you guy’s big success.

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