M-VoIP or disintermediation- what should keep operators awake at night?
Predicting how the telecommunications sector might develop is always a little tricky- who would have predicted the massive success of SMS? or the advent of the iPhone/ App store model? The latter, incidentally has been cited by investment bank Morgan Stanley in recent research as one of the most important developments ever: "The iPhone/ iTouch, Itunes ecosystem may prove to be the fastest ramping and most disruptive technical product service launch combination ever seen,” the investment bank says in recent research.
Given the influence and rapid take up of certain technologies like the two just mentioned, it is not surprising that the influence of mobile VoIP is heralded as a major disruptive technology.
But it is also worth noting that while some technologies achieve an impact straight away (like app stores), others take longer (3G), and others never get off the ground at all (like certain FMC ideas- what happened to BT Fusion?).
Mobile VoIP falls under the second of these categories. The full impact of mobile VoIP is going to take some time to emerge, and by the time it does the industry will look very different indeed. Right now mobile VoIP is but one of many pressures for mobile operators. Equally pressing are downward pressure on pricing due to intense competition and, maybe even more important, the disintermediation of the operator by companies from outside the telecoms sector altogether.
Avoiding the roll of dumb-pipe must be top an operator's agenda. But its pretty hard to achieve when a combination as powerful as the App Store and iPhone. So what are the options? High Definition Voice as a saviour of voice revenues? Well, maybe, Orange seems to think so. Music stores a la Itunes? Deutsche Telekom may be pinning its colours to that particular mast, I read recently.
Unless operators reinvent themselves altogether, ultimately it is likely to be new network infrastructure like LTE (though operators will have to find the money to invest in it), and not just because of new services it creates a platform for, but because it simpler, cheaper and more efficient to carry traffic, whatever kind of traffic it is.