recent 3ple Media survey revealed that 80% of mobile operators believe that it is ‘likely’ or ‘highly likely’ that they will eventually transition to become mobile data connectivity providers as this becomes an increasingly significant source of their revenue.
This situation has presented the mobile operators with a tough dilemma; on the one hand, mobile VoIP providers pose a threat to the operators’ traditional dominant revenue streams (voice and SMS), yet on the other hand, mobile VoIP is very popular with consumers and encourages customers to increase their use of mobile data, thereby laying the groundwork for the transition to a databased business model.
This dilemma explains the mobile network operators’ ambivalent attitudes to mobile VoIP thus far which, though a long way short of outright hostility, has certainly not seen them encouraging or supporting the widespread adoption of mobile VoIP. For example, consider the complicated solutions that mobile VoIP providers have had to resort to, such as software that is tricky to download, the swapping of SIM cards, or a complex calling system involving call back, just to get their product to work on a customer’s handset.
So far, the complexities associated with using a VoIP service on a mobile phone have frustrated the widespread adoption of mobile VoIP by consumers, which in turn has allowed the operators to carry on as though very little has changed. However, recent innovations in VoIP have the potential to change the whole telecommunications landscape and offer new opportunities to both the mobile VoIP providers and the network operators.
Area code for Earth
For example, last year the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) created the new country code +883. These +883 numbers (or iNums) have effectively created ‘an area code for Earth’ and, as a result, mobile VoIP clients no longer have to exist somewhere in the cloud, but can have a physical telephone number which theoretically is capable of being reached from any other phone, just like a traditional mobile or landline telephone.
So far, it is only some of the mobile VoIP providers that have made their numbers reachable. Consequently, it is possible to call between the likes of Truphone, Jajah, DeFi, Rebtel and Gizmo5, but it is not yet possible to call users on these networks directly from your mobile phone.
Many mobile operators have outsourced the management of their infrastructure, making it impossible to keep pace with the speed of innovation displayed by the IP-based providers. The time, costs and extended supply chain associated with the upkeep and maintenance of their networks simply makes this impossible. Yet iNum provides them with a way to access new markets, deliver new services and generate new revenue streams without any form of upfront investment.
Sceptics view of change
Change is never easy and is always viewed with scepticism by the big players on the market. However, recent history is littered with numerous examples of companies and even whole industries that failed to adapt and persisted with outdated business models long after consumer behaviour had irrevocably changed.
Take for example the music industry, which is now racing to catch up having for far too long chosen to bury its head in the sand, rather than acknowledging and acting upon the growing desire of their customers’ to download or even stream music instead of purchasing a physical product.
Recent innovations in the telecoms arena can be exploited to the mutual benefit of the mobile operators, the mobile VoIP providers and, most importantly, the general public who will gain access to a wide range of new IP-based services.
The mobile operators now have the opportunity of a lifetime to facilitate innovation across the telecoms market, but must be willing to adapt in order to ensure their ongoing relevance and appeal to their customers.
Voxbone is a wholesale communications provider and the company behind iNum, ‘the country code for Earth’.
Fighting mobile VoIP – Capitalising on the shock of the new
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