Mobile Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is no longer just hype, but has become a credible threat to traditional voice revenues.
Considering that it is only a matter of time until Internet protocol (IP) becomes the principal transport for various access technologies, an ambitious group of mobile VoIP start-up companies is creating a paradigm shift in the way users communicate, with voice services moving to a true Internet era of Telco 2.0.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan entitled "Impact of Mobile VoIP on Next Generation Cellular Networks", finds that approximately $605,8-million in revenues was generated by mobile VoIP in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America in 2008. This is expected to grow to $29,57-billion by 2015.
The technologies covered in this analysis are high-speed packet access (HSPA), third-generation long-term evolution (3G LTE), global system of mobile communications (GSM), IP multimedia subsystem (IMS), HSPA+, general packet radio service (GPRS), voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and session initiation protocol (SIP).
"The emergence of flat rate mobile data pricing, positive growth in smartphone shipments, and high-speed mobile broadband availability has spurred the adoption rate of mobile VoIP," says Frost & Sullivan senior mobile & wireless industry analyst Saverio Romeo. "Mobile operators realise they can no longer ignore the fact that mobile will be a key component of integrated IP-based communications and next generation wireless technologies such as HSPA+ and LTE."
Significant traction in the application space, primarily driven by the success of the iPhone, has resulted in several smartphone vendors making provisions in their applications stores for users to download and use third-party VoIP clients over both wireless fidelity (WiFi) and cellular broadband networks.
However, many cellular operators have prohibited the use of mobile VoIP over their cellular networks, with some imposing a surcharge to avoid cannibalisation of their circuit-switched voice revenue streams. Moreover, cellular operators face intense competition from the more popular Web-based VoIP alternatives that are permeating the mass market.
"Despite user demand for cost-effective services, some mobile operators will continue to discourage mobile subscribers from using VoIP over cellular networks and suggest that it will not provide the same quality, efficiency and reliability of services offered by the GSM network," explains Romeo. "Recent surveys indicate that nearly 60 to 70 per cent of the major European mobile operators prohibit or restrict the usage of VoIP over their popular mobile broadband data plans."
Mobile operators should eventually do away with imposing bans or surcharges to their mobile broadband packages to support mobile VoIP, as the client devices supporting HSPA+ and LTE will be based on open platforms and support SIP for third-party applications.
"When the operators migrate to an all-IP IMS network, they should drive innovative services such as multimedia telephony, high definition voice, integrating voice with context-based information about the user, and the device from a converged presence-enabled address book," concludes Romeo. "This will enable them to differentiate their services from mobile VoIP start-ups."