The telecommunications and IT industries have been at this point many times before: A technology is well ensconced and providing good service for customers and a steady revenue stream for service providers. Over time, however, another approach emerges that, arguably, is cheaper and offers other advantages. The chain of vendors, providers and assorted other companies must decide whether to battle or co-opt the upstart. Or they just may go into denial and do nothing at all.
VoIP presented this challenge to traditional telephone services and optical carriers to traditional T-class approaches. The record is clear: A lot of what happens is influenced by human nature. It's not easy to simply walk away from something that has worked and at which the company is adept and comfortable. In many cases, however, the companies that make the switch first are proven to have acted wisely.
It's happening again. Mobile VoIP is knocking at the door of traditional cellular providers. The questions are whether the carriers will hear it and, if so, how long it will take them to answer. Ovum, in a note released earlier this week, suggests that carriers are well advised to do so sooner rather than later.
The firm says that mobile VoIP is here to stay, and the release points to Skype upgrading its subscription plans, a move likely to make it more attractive both to consumers and businesses. The timing of the report and the news from Skype is a bit of a validation, a point not lost on the author of the Ovum press release. The new goes beyond Skype, however. Says the release:
Many mobile operators are still clinging desperately to high-margin traditional voice service revenues that are gradually being eroded. However, Verizon Wireless' recent announcement that it will offer Skype access to its mobile customers heralds a more positive approach to mobile VoIP that Ovum believes all players will ultimately have to adapt.
Fixed mobile communications (FMC) is one way in which VoIP and cellular are meeting. This week, Toshiba said that its Strate CIX VoIP business communications system is compatible with the iPhone. This is big news for unified communications, the release says. It also is more validation for Ovum's point that the melding of the two approaches to mobility essentially is a done deal.
It is uncertain if telecommunications and IT companies spend a lot of time looking at their industries' recent past. They don't have to be world-class students of history, however, to understand that the least-expensive solution will draw professional talent and, eventually, the most customers. The smart companies will get on board.