62 Comments

Summary:

For the past few days, the VoIP community has been indulging in a bit of soul-searching. The debate: Is VoIP dead? To pragmatists such as Alec Saunders, the answer is yes. In his well-reasoned polemic, “2008: The Year VoIP Died,” he succinctly writes, “Voice over IP […]

wantedposterFor the past few days, the VoIP community has been indulging in a bit of soul-searching. The debate: Is VoIP dead? To pragmatists such as Alec Saunders, the answer is yes. In his well-reasoned polemic, “2008: The Year VoIP Died,” he succinctly writes, “Voice over IP is just a transport and signaling technology. It’s plumbing.” Harsh, but true!

Of course, on the other side of the debate are folks such as Jeff Pulver and Jon Arnold, both with deep interests in the success of VoIP, who seem to think that VoIP is in for a renaissance. Pulver argues that we are going through Internet Communications Continuum, or “the continued evolution of the IP Communications Industry. In my case, this continuum represents all forms of IP Communications, including: VoIP, Instant Messaging, Presence, IP Signaling, Internet TV, Unified Communications, Social Media and more.”

They continue to think of VoIP as a revolution. The reality, however, is more mundane and as Alec said, boring. Where do we come out on this debate? On the side of realism. About two months ago, Ian Bell on our behalf analyzed the state of VoIP and why it was “dead.” We were egged on by some comments made by Skype’s general manager of voice and video, Jonathan Christensen, at an industry conference a few weeks ago.

Towards the end of that post, Ian pointed out that the current spate of problems facing the VoIP sector was lack of imagination on the part of the industry because its players went “after low-hanging fruit and forcing their innovations to be defined within the walls of the PSTN.” It is not just the failed voice service providers who took the easy way out, but also the so-called social voice innovators.

My friend Daemon sees a lot of hope in the new services that are emerging, but I remain skeptical. Not because I am a hater. Far from it. It is just that the VoIP landscape is littered with carcasses of companies that represented mediocrity and marginal ideas. There is some hope on the horizon, but we have been fooled before.

What side are you on?


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  1. I wonder how many of the people who actually believe VoIP is dead were involved in the VoIP industry at the time I introduced the concept of “Purple Minutes” back at Spring 2002 VON. I warned people as best as I could that we should use IP based communication platforms to do more than simply replace or substitute existing telecom infrastructure. To the extent that many of the people who were responsible for empowering the communication revolution eventually gave up on changing the world and ended up becoming part of the establishment rather than disrupting it, well maybe for them “VoIP is Dead” but then again, for these people VoIP died a long time ago.

    When I look to the future, I believe we are just on the edge of the time when the true promise of VoIP will be realized. In order for these dreams to be realized, it will require a new group of people who believe in challenging the status quo, to stand up and be counted on.

    While I am looking for others to join the NEW revolution, I am ready and prepared to do what it takes to continue to push for the promise of what IP Communications can offer.

    So while some of my friends may declare that VoIP is Dead, I don’t.

    “VoIP is Dead, Long Live VoIP.”

    Happy New Year 2009!

  2. Landline is definitely getting less important for many of us. For me that does not mean I get rid of it completely. It means I dont want to signup for expensive monthly commitment to the phone providers, I am looking for cheaper solutions. Solutions that does not have huge monthly commitment. I was with Vonage, Sunrocket and after Sunrocket fiasco moved to Comcast and then AT&T. Currently I bought an OOMA equipment and looking to cut my monthly bill. I am looking to Vonage at my parents house in India and send an OOMA equipment and possibly use a MagicJack service.
    When my colleagues at Oracle poll on the VOIP services used at home, I see tons of them using. I have hundred of friends who use different VOIP solutions. All major business use VOIP for their company phone lines. I keep hearing that VOIP is going to be dead, but I dont get why that would happen when there are millions of users of VOIP phones.
    Marketsize of landlines as a whole might be coming down, but I can see a future when majority of landline users who have broadband access will switch to VOIP lines.

  3. I sincerely think VOIP is revolutionary. It promises to undermine the corporate monopolies for voice communication, by routing realtime sound directly from person to person… practically for free.

    However, with the grudging cooperation of the first VOIP providers, VOIP has simply become yet another transport mechanism for diverting large, arbitrary sums of money into the existing telco monopolies.

    The fact that folks who use VOIP do need to occasionally talk to folks who use traditional phone networks, has chained VOIP providers to the VOIP/telco gateways. Telcos have mercilessly charged enough to make VOIP a losing proposition, and there does not seem to be any political leadership willing to correct this.

    However, I do not think that VOIP is going away, and I plan to resist any future laws that try and force me to VOIP under the warm, guiding hand of Ma Bell. I have a pile of cracked VOIP boxes sitting behind me, and I can mail them to my friends and family, making endless, free calls directly between our IP addresses when that time comes.

  4. Rino Sukmandityo Thursday, January 1, 2009

    Hmm…

  5. VoIP is nowhere near dead. It may have fallen out of fashion with the higher ups in the tech elite, but I see more of my non-tech savvy friends gravitating to it all the time. One friend of mine who just moved for law school has passed on landlines all together and is using a combination of her cell phone and Skype for all of her phone needs. She got a Skype In number from her hometown so her friends and family could call her and they are none the wiser they are doing this all by computers.

    I removed the second line in my home and in my office and replaced them with Skype Philps handsets and we are saving a tremendous amount of money.

    Sure, it may be “old hat” to some of us, but it shouldn’t matter, it’s still growing in most sectors.

  6. Your poll results suggest that most dont find your view convincing. Can you provide statistics that show failure rate of startups in this industry is higher than in others? In investigating failure rates, you may find the opposite. Very many voip businesses thrive because propensity to pay is higher for phone services than for other Internet services.

    The examples of failure you cite only show that businesses that do not evolve are waylaid, true for any industry. VoIP has also been tethered to fixed internet connections at a time when residential users are asking for mobile services. Once better mobile tcp/ip and honest regulation come together, that too shall pass.

  7. Michael Cerda Friday, January 2, 2009

    It’s not dead, it’s just that nobody cares anymore. Skype aside, the industry as we’ve known it has been for sale for about two years now.

    VoIP cost structures make it prohibitive to innovate as you would Internet companies, unless you’re not doing anything with the PSTN. And if you’re not doing anything with the PSTN, then you’re not functional in the most commonly used environment, which means you’re trying to change consumer behavior in ways that are expensive and/or take more time/money than anyone has to offer.

  8. It’s not that consumer VoIP is dead – it was stillborn. There is simply -no- way to disrupt the services needed to run the new disrupting service. Confused? An example: many evangelists predicted VoIP would mean the end of traditional telcos as we knew them, by allowing people to freely call each other using their broadband connections. What they fail to mention is who exactly provides these broadband connections – in essence the very same people that give you a phone service. In very rare cases would someone have a voice services provider who is different from their broadband provider. Thus, if you put the telcos out of business, over which broadband is your VoIP going to travel now?

    There is a niche for VoIP in corporate setups, to link remote offices who would otherwise be paying expensive long-distance or international charges, but for the average Joe, VoIP is confusing to setup and use, and while many people may use Skype or Gizmo, they still use their POTS phone to call for pizza.

  9. James Gardiner Friday, January 2, 2009

    VoIP is far from dead.
    I and my company use it as our main calling technology with a few ISDN as backups. We have remote offices etc. bringing all the advantages. If anything, VoIP as a profitable business is a questional future as, like said, its plumming anyone can go and impement. So no money in it traditionally and as such, to the traditional voice business industry it is dead.

    VoIP is so now, it is not funny. Its simply a part of the revolution that is the Internet. However, it is getting over shaddowed by all the hype and crud like Twitter, Facebook, and other non-profitable Web2.0 bubbles.

    James

  10. Om
    I think its not that voip is dead, its that its plumbing, that’s all
    The average man on the street doesn’t even know what voip is, the same as the average man on the street doesn’t know what a transmission bearing in his car does.
    He just knows that his car doesn’t work without it.
    We need to move away from this “vooip is dead discussion” its now mainstream, its just another transmission protocol.
    We use voip at MAXroam, does the customer know, he doesn’t and he doesn’t care, he gets cheaper roaming and that’s all he is interested in.
    Great post to begin the year with.

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