A new research study believes the evolution of mobile VoIP will eclipse voice over Wi-Fi to become a mainstream form of communication.
London-based Disruptive Analysis predicts the number of “VoIPo3G” users could grow from virtually zero this year to more than 250 million by the end of 2012. “This is comfortably in excess of the expected number of fixed mobile convergence (FMC) users with dual-mode VoWLAN/cellular phones,” the group says.
The report also says it will be the carriers themselves that mainly will be responsible for the push toward VoIP being carried over cellular networks. “Carriers will become increasingly attracted to VoIPo3G because it will enable them to fit more phone calls into their scarce spectrum allocations, reduce operating expenses by combining fixed and mobile core networks, and launch new services like push-to-talk and voice-integrated ‘mashups,'” it adds. “VoIPo3G also fits well with the move towards femtocells.”
However, because these new RF technologies are three to five years away from mainstream deployment, what happens in the meantime will provide the major disruption to operator business models. According to Disruptive Analysis, some independent VoIP players already are exploiting the fact that today’s 3G networks already can support VoIP, putting dedicated software on smartphones, exploiting open operating systems, flat-rate data plans and features like “naked SIP” and built-in VoIP capability.
At the same time, there is an increasing trend of carriers marketing 3G modems for PCs — not just for mobile computing, but also to compete with home DSL/cable broadband offerings. The group says laptop users expect to be able to use their normal broadband applications over 3G, including voice-based ones like Skype. Some carriers even are offering their own VoIP software for PCs with wireless broadband.
Dean Bubley, author of the report and founder of Disruptive Analysis, comments, “3G networks are increasingly capable of supporting VoIP, for both traditional mobile operators and independent Internet-based VoIP challengers. But while CDMA operators will benefit from VoIP being ‘designed in’ to their newest networks, 3G/HSPA operators will have to wait for several years – a window of opportunity which will be exploited by the ‘over the top’ players. Rather than competing head-on, partnership models have the potential to create win-win propositions.”
The end-result of the push toward VoIPo3G is that, by 2012, most VoIPo3G users will be using wireless carriers’ own standards-based VoIP capabilities over the new, advanced 3G+ networks. However, a significant minority of about 60 million will be using independent or Internet-based solutions — many actually operated in partnership with carriers or retailers.