A new research study from Disruptive Analysis shows that evolution of mobile VoIP will rapidly eclipse voice over WiFi and become a mainstream form of communication. The analyst firm predicts that the number of VoIPo3G users could grow from virtually zero in 2007 to over 250m by the end of 2012. This is comfortably in excess of the expected number of FMC users with dual-mode VoWLAN/cellular phones.
The report demonstrates that it will be the operators themselves which will be mainly responsible for the push towards VoIP being carried over cellular networks. Carriers will become increasingly attracted to VoIPo3G because it will enable them to fit more phone calls into their scarce spectrum allocations, reduce operating expenses by combining fixed and mobile core networks, and launch new services like push-to-talk and voice-integrated “mashups”. VoIPo3G also fits well with the move towards femtocells. Future generations of wireless technology – 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution), 3GPP2 UMB(Ultra Mobile Broadband), WiMAX – are “all-IP”, so unless mobile operators continue to run separate voice networks in parallel, they will inevitably transition to VoIP at some point.
However, because these new radio technologies are three to five years away from mainstream deployment – what happens in the meantime will provide the major disruption to operator business models. Some independent VoIP players are already exploiting the fact that today’s 3G networks can already support VoIP, putting dedicated software on smartphones, exploiting open operating systems, flat-rate data plans and
features like “naked SIP” and built-in VoIP capability. These are linked to competitive ‘over the top’ phone or IM services via a mobile Internet connection.
At the same time, there is an increasing trend of carriers marketing 3G modems for PCs – not just for mobile computing, but also to compete with home DSL/cable broadband offerings. Laptop users expect to be able to use their normal broadband applications over 3G, including voice-based ones like Skype. Some operators are even offering their own VoIP software for PCs with wireless broadband.
The end-result of the push towards VoIPo3G is that by 2012, most VoIPo3G users will be using mobile carriers’ own standards-based VoIP capabilities, over the new, advanced 3G+ networks. However, a significant minority of about 60m will be using independent or Internet-based solutions – many actually operated in partnership with
carriers or retailers.
Dean Bubley, author of the report and founder of Disruptive Analysis, comments: “3G networks are increasingly capable of supporting VoIP, for both traditional mobile operators and independent Internet-based VoIP challengers. But while CDMA operators will benefit from VoIP being ‘designed-in’ to their newest networks, 3GPP / HSPA operators will have to wait for several years – a window of opportunity which will be
exploited by the ‘over the top’ players. Rather than competing head-on, partnership models have the potential to create win-win propositions.”