Voice as an OTT App

Jim Machi : Industry Insight
Jim Machi

Voice as an OTT App

I’ve been writing a lot in this blog about the wireless industry’s movement to IP and its impact. One obvious impact is the amount of mobile data predicted to be passed along the mobile networks. I’ve cited the Cisco VNI report one source of this data, which you can look at below. One realization from viewing this data is that the on-ramp to the internet is increasingly coming from mobile devices. That can be seen from the amount of video and web/data in the graph:

And of course one big question because of this is “how the heck is all this data going to get through the networks?” So I’ve also been writing about this and about the need for various techniques to address this issue, such as offloading to WiFi, adding more access points, moving to new technologies such as LTE, and inserting products that optimize what is going through the networks.

One other impact though is that all the boxes in the chart above essentially become “apps.” If all this flows through the data networks, then all these things are basically OTT “apps.” This is interesting because even though the graph above has a reddish box called “voice communications,”  you can barely see it. It is dwarfed by the video, data and web.

Let’s take a closer look at the voice. 


This would be voice over the data network, so mobile Skype and the like. So yes, that is an app you download, right?  It’s hard to say, but I would estimate a lot of this is really over some Wi-Fi network. I’ve even seen people in the early iPad days in airports holding their iPads up to their heads and listening and speaking to it, as they “Skyped” home. If they do that, then I have a good feeling a lot of this is over Wi-Fi.  

My first two reactions upon seeing this chart were – why is this so small, and why isn’t this expected to grow more? One reason could be when you get a mobile plan for a smartphone, it typically comes with voice minutes and data. You might as well NOT use your data for phone calls I guess - if you get voice minutes, then use them. Plus, the mobile cellular networks right now have a perceived higher quality. For tablets, you don’t get voice minutes (given it’s not a phone) which is probably why I saw what I saw in the airport. But if people just got data minutes, even with a smartphone, then we might see this increasing more. If there was an IM capability, and you put your “voice talking circle” onto this, and you saw when someone you wanted to talk to was online, then you would use this more and more. Voice, in this case, would truly be an “application” to prioritize along with the use of other applications.

People are smart. Even if the service providers continued to offer voice minutes and data, if a “pure” data plan was available and it could be cheaper in the long run (which in certain use cases it will be no matter how the service provider price it), people will do it.  Not my parents or people like that. That would be too scary for them. And people need phone numbers for business. But the kids would certainly do it and bring this along. I believe we’ll see this be revamped and be larger than what is predicted here. The age of voice as an application has truly arrived.

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