I'm currently at a conference on the technology, applications and commercial issues around Wireless VoIP. I've been speaking myself (on the topic of enterprise use of VoWLAN), and generally harassing most of the other speakers with questions.
Some interesting snippets that are emerging:
- Skype is already doing VoIPo3G with E-Plus in Germany, initially from laptops with UMTS data cards. It's looking at other operators, and also at working over EDGE. At present it creates about 1MB traffic a minute, so it's not useful on the hideously overpriced 3G data services available in Europe (often $1-3 per MB, and much worse on international roaming). E-Plus is one of the first operators with a sensible flat-rate data pricing strategy.
- Interestingly, another analyst at the event (coming from a very defensive and cellular-operator centric position) suggested carriers should maintain this type of pricing structure to limit the threat of wireless VoIP. Given that my view that wireless data transport in Europe is 2-6 orders of magnitude too expensive, it seems that this is a massive opportunity either for new entrant cellular "challengers" or WiMAX / TDD / other wireless IP broadband operators. Back to my rallying call of "Just give me a pipe!"....
- Disagreement on the timelines, volumes and impact of dual-mode WLAN/cellular devices and converged FMC services. My view is that volumes will be lower than many think (I've been forecasting complex stuff for too long to draw oversteep hockey-stick uptake curves - I think there are lots of practicalities that will dampen the market growth rate), but the wider impact on cellular pricing and strategic realignments in the industry will be greater. I'm also ever more convinced that UMA is a non-starter - not so much because of the technology, but because of the commercials and ways of building the user interface, customer support and billing etc. I'm also starting to wonder about the timelines on SIP-based dual-mode, and whether my (relatively low-ball) predictions may be too bullish. I'm particularly skeptical about the market opportunity for non-smartOS phones with WiFi
- Starting to see more people talking about using cellular over low-power GSM/3G picocells as an alternative to VoWLAN in-building. I've been mentioning these at FMC conferences for at least a year, but it's the first time I've seen so many other people appear to take them seriously. This fits in with trends & opportunities observed by these guys and also the recent announcement from these other guys, that could help drive wider development of picocells, and even the new "flavour of the month", home "femtocells" hanging off DSL lines. I'm already looking forward to the Daily Mail's headlines about base stations in your living room.....
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