50% of Mobile Voice Traffic Will Use End-to-End VoIP by 2019

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Randy Savicky
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50% of Mobile Voice Traffic Will Use End-to-End VoIP by 2019

gartner-logo.gifGartner, a respected research firm located just a stone's throw from TMC said today, "mobile VoIP poses a huge challenge for traditional mobile voice providers." You don't say? Hmm, I would have never guessed such a thing. Ok, other than stating the obvious, the research does have some fascinating points, including claiming that ore than 50% of mobile voice traffic will be carried using end-to-end VoIP by 2019 - or basically 10 years from now.

"Mobile portal voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offered by third-party application-based providers poses a huge and direct challenge to the $692.6 billion global mobile voice market", according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner predicts that over time traditional network-based mobile carriers face the real prospect of losing a major slice of their voice traffic and revenue to new non-infrastructure players that use VoIP.

But Gartner doesn't paint an entirely rosy picture for VoIP. Gartner said "that despite this significant potential, conditions for the rapid expansion in the use of mobile VoIP are not yet right and are not likely to become right for at least five years and perhaps as long as eight years."

Yeah, well when carriers like AT&T pull crap like forcing Apple to only allow VoIP over WiFi and not over a 3G data connection, it's no wonder why mobile VoIP growth will be stunted by anti-competitive tactics. Then you have countries like Canada which outright block Skype on the iPhone. Fortunately, avid mobile phone users aren't taking this lying down. For instance, you can jailbreak your iPhone and run VoIP over 3G no problem.

Why do we have to put up with this crippleware? I get that AT&T is a business and needs to make money. If they're worried that flat-rate data plans that run VoIP over it will drastically hurt their voice revenue, then change your business model! Keep the flat-rate data plan, but install packet-inspection technology that detects voice packets and charge a few cents for VoIP calls. If the flat-rate data plan's business model is outdated, which it seems to be, then change it.

Yeah, sure customers may not like the idea and certainly it seems that our culture today expects "something for nothing", but hey, it's business folks. I'd rather have the capability of making VoIP calls using a SIP provider or make Skype calls and pay a few pennies than not be able to use VoIP over 3G/4G at all. I'm sure if AT&T did try and charge money for VoIP calls running over a data connection that customer advocate groups, the ACLU, and people who think they should get something for nothing will run to the government and complain that AT&T is charging them money for using VoIP. Perish the thought that a business is charging you money for using their services!

Maybe we should just nationalize all the carriers like most countries have and then petition Congress to pass a law that will force the nationalized carriers to give us free mobile VoIP. Heck, with trillions of dollars being spent on the bailout package, why not free mobile VoIP at the expense of the big bad carriers? Free healthcare for everyone, free mobile VoIP for everyone, it's all free baby! Socialism here we come!

Ok end rant. Back to Gartner...

"Mass-scale adoption of end-to-end mobile VoIP calling will not happen until fourth-generation (4G) networks are fully implemented in 2017," said Tole Hart, research director at Gartner. "Once the basic market conditions are in place, transition to mobile portal VoIP should be fairly rapid because of the inherent convenience and end-user cost savings. In 10 years time we expect that 30 percent of mobile voice traffic will be carried out through third-party mobile portals, such as Google, Facebook, MySpace and Yahoo, which will adopt wireless VoIP service as a voice option to their current communications hub."

A number of third parties, such as Skype, Truphone and fring, which carry VoIP traffic using a mobile phone, have cropped up in the past couple of years, offering access to voice services via Wi-Fi and/or the carriers' wireless voice networks. This has been the most efficient way to offer the service to date because of the inconsistencies of voice services over third-generation (3G) data networks. However, with the advent of 4G networks (WiMAX and Long Term Evolution [LTE]), and increased use of smartphones with open operating systems, it is conceivable, perhaps even inevitable, that wireless voice services will be run completely over VoIP.

"Ten years from now, more than half of mobile voice traffic will be carried end-to-end using VoIP," said Akshay Sharma, research director at Gartner. "Carriers will adopt voice services because of the increased capacity and reduced cost of delivering voice over 4G networks. Third parties will adopt a voice option for their communications hub."

Gartner analysts warned that there will also be a number of factors that will inhibit the adoption of third-party, end-to-end VoIP services, including the delay in rolling out 4G networks because of current economic conditions and also the general plan to put 4G only in the main cities and build out from there. Nevertheless, in five to 10 years time, as 4G networks become common, mobile VoIP services will have a strong impact on the communications market.

Competing with mobile portal VoIP will be wireless carriers that offer circuit and VoIP voice and data services, and resellers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that also offer services off the carrier networks. Gartner expects this opening of the VoIP channels to spawn a number of voice services from companies that offer voice services to communities using voice as a communications link. This means that the biggest competitors to mobile VoIP may be text messaging and e-mail, as people may prefer to use these types of communication because of their non-intrusive, less emotional and less time-consuming nature.

Although the impact of the technology shift will be gradual as 4G networks roll out, Gartner advises carriers to start thinking now about how the transition will occur and how they might cooperate and partner with other types of service providers. Third-party providers, such as Google and Yahoo, should look to offer voice services today using the carriers' networks and Wi-Fi to leverage their portfolio of services. Mobile social communities, such as Facebook and MySpace, which benefit from messaging traffic as it keeps eyeballs on their sites, should also have a voice option.


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