Blog Post

Are Carriers Changing Their Tune on Mobile VoIP?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

[qi:gigaom_icon_voip] If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know that wireless phone companies have had little to no time for VoIP-based applications, especially those that cut into their precious voice and SMS revenues. A few years back, T-Mobile decided to play nasty with mobile VoIP startup Truphone in the UK, and since then similar such incidents have taken place as well.

But two recent statements by carriers from different parts of the world are making me wonder if the mobile phone companies are softening their stance on mobile VoIP. Last week, Verizon (s vz) went out of its way to highlight the fact that it had tested VoIP calling on its new 4G wireless network. (The other 4G wireless company, Clearwire (s clwr), has warmed up to VoIP as well.)

And European mobile giant Telefonica O2 said today that VoIP apps can now be run over its 3G mobile networks, though only in Germany. They can be accessed by way of special Internet packs that include 5 Gb of transfers for about 25 euros ($35.21) a month.

This is a smart and logical move — especially since we’re so close to stepping into the 4G era. With the bandwidth finally available, and most companies already moving towards offering flat-rate calling plans, it’s finally time for carriers to embrace the fact that voice is just an app running on their IP networks.  This attitude shift is good for mobile VoIP startups such as Truphone and Fring.

9 Responses to “Are Carriers Changing Their Tune on Mobile VoIP?”

  1. Skype, Truphone, Vopium or Nimbuzz are the best example of VoIP apps, these VoIP services has significantly reduce the international calling rates while in roaming.

  2. verizon’s 4g like lte is end-to-end ip based, so their voip is for their own sake of maintaining conventional voice services. looks like u read that mistakenly as somehow for apps. 4g has no choice but to run voice calls over ip pkts. that doesn’t mean outside apps will be allowed to do that.

    • Exactly – the Verizon Wireless announcement states that they can make a phone call. It’s a milestone in delivering LTE, not a shift in strategies. LTE is All-IP – no circuit mode.

  3. “it’s finally time for carriers to embrace the fact that voice is just an app running on their IP networks.” I take issue with the way you phrase carrier voice as “just an app”.

    If you’re looking at voice from 100K foot view, yes it looks like an app but when you refer to it as, “just an app”, you associate carrier (mobile/fixed) voice with apps like iFart, Shazam, or anything other .99 downloads. Show me another “app” that has to scale to millions/billions of MOUs/month or that costs subscribers $25-50/month from users across the globe.

    Carrier (mobile/fixed) voice should not be so lightly assigned the “just an app” lable; it deserves more respect than that.

    btw, I don’t disagree with your take on mobile VoIP. :)

    • Ben

      It is a 1,000 foot view now. It used to be a 100,000 foot view about ten years ago. What I am saying here is pretty basic: yes it is hard to do, harder to scale etc etc and it makes ton of money, the fact of the matter is that as we start using phones for things other than making calls, the carriers are smarter to think of voice as “just another app.”

      On the Voice-as-an-app: i think mobile voice, Skype, and Vonage type services, not to mentioned cheap long distance minutes have killed our expectations of voice. so from that perspective it is just another app. just doesn’t crash as often. (unless you are on AT&T’s mobile network.)

      Jokes aside, I think you are making a good point.

  4. That;s great news for all ((truphone)) users in Germany on O2. ((truphone)) is already a very compelling offering but running it over 3G will make the service a killer product. So far I had a great experience using it over WiFi or via the truphone anywhere GSM dial in Number in most countries around the world.