BT’s Ribbit is taking on Google Voice with a cloud-based service that combines Internet voice, smart call routing and voicemail transcriptions. Like Google Voice, Ribbit Mobile allows consumers to transfer calls from an existing mobile number to Ribbit’s platform, which includes features such as routing calls to mobile phones and transcribing voicemails. Ribbit Mobile can forward calls to Skype, MSN or Google Talk Accounts, and can alert users to missed calls or new voicemails via e-mail, Skype, Google Talk or text message.
While the offering appears to be a worthy competitor to Google Voice, it also underscores BT’s larger strategy of merging its voice business with the Internet. BT acquired Ribbit in a $105 million deal last year and installed Ribbit founder Ted Griggs as chief technology officer of BT Voice in an attempt to expand beyond traditional cellular telephone service into alternative forms of communication.
BT’s strategy is one that is surely being studied by savvy network operators around the world. Consumers are increasingly turning to web-based services such as Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging to communicate with others, and Skype’s 40 million-plus daily users prove that Internet voice has gained mass-market traction. Voice still accounts for the vast majority of revenues for carriers around the world, but operators will have to embrace alternative forms of communication as the Internet collides with the traditional mobile industry. Whether Ribbit Mobile can overtake Google Voice has yet to be determined, but BT’s strategy of embracing Internet-based communications is refreshingly progressive in the conservative world of mobile telecoms.