Mobile VoIP is an inevitability. Consumers get the convenience of a dual-purpose handset that works on the cellular network or, via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, connects to the Internet when that makes more sense. The VoIP providers gain, of course, simply by the increased traffic. Strangely, even the cellular carriers win: Voice traffic that is offloaded onto the Internet frees up increasingly scarce spectrum for 3G traffic.
So it's a win-win-win (there may be some other wins in there, but we've made our point). A lot of companies are already in and trying to enter this sector. Indeed, it is confusing because so many startups and companies in related areas are trying to get in on the action before it's too late. One interesting question is the fate of Skype. After all, it became something of a VoIP poster boy when it was bought last year by eBay. Based on reports last week, it is struggling with mobility, apparently because its peer-to-peer architecture makes things tricky.
There was no shortage of mobile VoIP news last week, however: Jajah launched mobility, three mobile services launched in the UK, and a company called iSkoot unveiled a service that links a dual-mode phone to several providers' mobile VoIP services.
Perhaps not every week will be this eventful, but it's clear that mobile VoIP is going to be big. The reason is simple: It suits the needs of many constituencies.
We are at the beginning of the curve. The most interesting battles will be waged at the device and underlying chip level. The most successful mobile products always are those that use the fewest chips. Mobile VoIP is no different. Supporting both VoIP and legacy cellular networking is a big task. The designers that integrate best -- thereby saving space and reducing power drain -- will be the winners.
If you want to figure out where mobile VoIP is going in this confusing environment, don't focus on the service providers. Look at what the chip vendors and handset makers are doing.