As controversy over AT&T placing restrictions on FaceTime over cellular demonstrates, carriers are still the gatekeepers when it comes to over-the-top communications services. The possibility of getting blocked by carriers is a real possibility if you’re an OTT player, said Rob Williams, CEO and founder of Sidecar, a new VoIP calling app that layers on video, location and photo sharing.
While that’s led other OTT to players like Skype and WhatsApp to strike up carrier deals, Williams doesn’t necessarily believe that carrier partnerships will be the eventual fate of all over-the-top VoIP providers. Speaking at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference Thursday, Williams said Sidecar is open to the idea of carrier partnerships in the future, but he also believes that carriers will eventually see the light and offer their own competing IP-based rich media communications services. They will compete with OTT players on features rather than just try to block them, he said.
“I don’t think you have to have a deal with a carrier to make money,” he said. “You have to make a great product.”
Speaking on the same panel, T-Mobile SVP of marketing Brad Duea also pointed out that not all carriers are necessarily threatened by the idea of OTT service, despite the threat they hold to their legacy voice and SMS revenues. T-Mobile has launched its own VoIP calling service Bobsled, which it offers to its own customers as well as an OTT service to its competitors’ customers. Duea said that T-Mobile’s primary goal is to drive traffic to its data network, not protect traffic over its voice networks.