I've been thinking about making predictions for 2005 for some time now. I had a few ideas jotted down back in November but just never got around to compiling everything together and then sitting down and writing my VoIP predictions. Well, with only 9 more days until New Years Eve and then 2005, I guess I can procrastinate no longer.
Here are my Top 10 VoIP predictions and ponderings for 2005.
1) VoIP providers will continue to run to the FCC (a VoIP proponent) for protection from the big bad bully RBOCs, ILECs, CLECs, etc. as they try and lobby Congress to regulate VoIP. It will be a fun battle to watch.
2) VoIP providers will continue to harp that the government shouldn't impose any regulations on VoIP and that the industry should be open & free, while simultaneously VoIP providers will continue to alienate their customers by password-protecting and locking the customer's ATA (analog telephony adaptor), thus preventing customers from easily switching to another VoIP provider and using the same ATA. This is hypocrisy at its worst! Customers will continue to be left with useless ATA "bricks" which eventually will make it the local landfill when they switch to a better VoIP provider.
3) With millions of customers using VoIP and with the ability to now easily switch to another voice provider and keep your existing phone number, more customers will switch to the best value, which means more ATAs will make it to the landfill drawing attention from the EPA. Rather than let the EPA regulate recycling of ATAs, in 2005 VoIP providers will offer a rebate or discount to "turn in" your old ATA so they can recycle it. It can even be a selling point to get you to switch from a competitor - "Be green! Send us your old VoIP ATA and we will give you the first month for free!"
4) 2005 - The Year Triple Play took off
Other than WiMAX, the Triple Play has got to be one of the most hyped technologies of 2004. Well, watch out in 2005. The Triple Play will take off in 2005, you can bank on it. I examined one Triple Play technology provider (Pannaway) in the labs recently and the technology is ready. The technology used by them is ADSL2+, targeting the DSL providers (typically phone companies). This company already has some actual deployments - not trials - across the country. I did a test drive of Pannaway's product last week and plan on writing the first ever product review of a Triple Play offering in an upcoming issue of Internet Telephony Magazine.
Service providers that can bundle and package several services all rolled into one will have a competitive advantage over those that do not have those capabilities. Vonage is one example of a company that cannot offer Triple Play since it doesn’t own the broadband pipe into the home – it merely rides on top of the broadband pipe using the IP protocol.
Cable companies and DSL providers (often carriers) on the other hand are in prime position to one-up Vonage, since they own the broadband pipe, they can ensure QoS for converged voice/video/data and thus offer an all-in-one package at a lower overall cost than Vonage. This essentially gives the carriers the opportunity to enact some revenge on Vonage for stealing customers and helping to drive long distance margins way down. Vonage and other “Single Play” VoIP service providers could be in trouble in 2005, so although I don’t see a lot of consolidation, it’s possible Vonage could try and attempt to be bought out.
5) Return of the Jedi (Return of telemarketing calls to switch providers)
Return of the Telemarketers
Remember the days when MCI, AT&T, etc. would call you at home and ask you to switch phone carriers and they'd often bribe you with $50 or even $100? Have you noticed that the volume of these calls has dramatically gone down? In fact, I haven't received a "switch carriers" phone call in over one and a half years! Want to know why? It just costs too much money for the carriers to pay a call center agent to call you and get you to switch. The conversion rate isn't that great to begin with and with the ROI going way down with the price of voice minutes tanking, it just doesn't make sense. Of course the Federal Do Not Call list could have something to do with the call volume drop as well. But does this mean the end of telemarketers trying to get you to switch?
Unfortunately, I don't think so. There is a loophole in the DNC that lets companies call you if they have done business with you in the past 6 months, which surely will be exploited. As I mentioned in Prediction #4, the phone companies will soon offer Triple Play voice/video/data. If the phone companies don't already have you as a DSL customer, they could in the near future have you as an ADSL2+ TV customer. If they have you as a customer in ANY of the Triple Play offerings, they can call you and upsell you on the other services. So if you are one of the millions of DSL users, watch out in 2005! Your DSL provider WILL BE calling you to offer you TV access bundled with voice and/or data.
This is a huge competitive advantage for the "big boys" to go after Vonage, which has cut into the carrier's marketshare. I suppose the Triple Play offering is one way of striking revenge against Vonage and the other Internet phone providers.
6) The Empire Strikes Back
Empire (carriers) Strikes Back
Phone companies (The Empire) will go after the cable companies' TV business just as the cable companies have successfully gone after the phone companies' voice and data business. This is related to my Triple Play prediction, but I just had to work Star Wars somewhere into these predictions.