VoIP Could Shift Mobile Focus to North America

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This eMarketer piece is short but very interesting. It reports on a Juniper Research study that says VoIP over Wi-Fi will be centered in North America, which will generate 43 percent of the sector's revenue by 2012. Europe, the Middle East and Asia will be next at 28 percent, with the Asia Pacific close behind at 25 percent.


That begs the big question: How will mobile VoIP fare against cellular?


It's unlikely that VoIP over Wi-Fi -- or any sort of mobile VoIP, for that matter -- will catch cellular in five years. But, by the end of that period, things could be closer than many people imagine today. It's interesting -- and important for planners -- to wonder what the North American dominance will mean for the worldwide cellular hardware and software pecking order. The United States, which of course accounts for most of the North American activity, was late to the cellular party and still hasn't caught up. As mobile VoIP grows, a shift to a North American orientation becomes bigger news.


Perhaps the quality struggles of North American cellular -- coupled with the clearer signals and better overall coverage in Europe and Asia -- are why mobile VoIP will be able to get a strong foothold here. For decades, U.S. cell phone networks and devices seemed to have had an inferiority complex compared with the more sophisticated and comprehensive European and Asian services. Perhaps that situation will reverse itself. If the lower costs and other advantages of mobile VoIP enable it to slowly gain significant worldwide marketshare from cellular, North America could become the center of mobile communications. At minimum, the scene is set for a very strong mobile VoIP sector in the United States.


Of course, it will be a confusing marketplace as the technologies find ways to both overlap and compete. The opportunity to change the decades-old pecking order in which the U.S. brings up the rear in cellular dovetails nicely with the fact that the wired VoIP infrastructure here is highly evolved. This is due to the aggressiveness of the cable industry and, more recently, the incumbent telephone providers.


The key for the cable industry is the quad play, in which its formidable video and data offerings are joined by wired and, now, wireless voice. The deal between cable operators Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Advance/Newhouse and Sprint Nextel is the best example of this.