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Business Week today has a good summary of various mobile VoIP services that allow you to make phone calls from your cellphone over the Wi-Fi network. These apps are incredibly popular amongst people who use iPhones, thanks to services such as Truphone and Gorilla Mobile, while others like iCall will soon join the party. And that is just the beginning.
By 2011 the number of mobile VoIP users around the world may rise to 100 million from 7 million in 2007, according to ON World, a consulting firm based in San Diego. ON World estimates that in 2011, mobile VoIP voice services may generate $33.7 billion, up from $516 million in 2006, the most recent year for which the figure is available.
WiFi-based voice calls may not appear to make much sense in this era of $99, flat-rate unlimited plans, but when you have to make a lot of international long distance calls, the cost saving are humongous. I use Truphone on my iPhone and/or my Nokia e71 to make calls to my family and friends in India as well as to my sources, which are spread across the world.
There are times when I have used Skype (via iSkoot) on my mobiles to make calls, but Truphone is my service of choice. I save a lot of money when compared to what calls cost on the AT&T network.
No wonder phone companies don’t have much use for Wi-Fi unless they can use it off-load calls from the precious wireless spectrum to the Wi-Fi network. Others, like T-Mobile USA, have come up with a way to measure calls made via Wi-Fi hotspots and count them against wireless subscriber minutes, unless you sign up for an additional $10-a-month plan, Business Week notes.
So obviously they’ve gone out of their way to neuter VoIP services like Truphone. More recently, Nokia decided to take out VoIP functionality from some of its N-Series devices, like the N78 and the forthcoming N96, in what could very well be called carrier arm-twisting.
I think that if carriers want to compete with mobile VoIP they need to lower their long-distance prices to that of VoIP services. By using their network backbones they can offer convenience and quality to trounce the upstarts. The problem is that wireless companies will not make this logical move — until it’s too late.