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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Skype + Sony Mylo + T-Mo US: a big deal?

Andy Abramson over at VoIP Watch thinks that Skype is being seriously subversive with its tie-up with T-Mobile in the US, allowing hotspot-based voice calling at a flat rate.

I'm not that convinced at all.

Two main reasons:

1) Inbound calls
2) SMS

Plus myriad other minor reasons. Apart from anything else, maybe Starbucks in the US is different, but my local one here in London plays such awful piped background music that the last thing I'd do there is make hours of calls on my mobile to my friends or important clients.


Anonymous said...

Well, having used the service and liking it a lot, I can honestly say that there is a lot to be said for it. You can still handle incoming connections pretty well (Skype In will just go to a VM when you are not present) and who needs SMS when you can IM? And since a decent IM client like OZ is on virtually all of the cellular devices that the young, hip and rich want (i.e. Helio, Ampd, Verizon VCAST etc...), then who cares about SMS? What the Mylo/Skype/TMO HotSpot deal represents is a very cheap way to call anybody for a fixed price for a year; which means that folks will not cancel their cellular subscription, but they may downgrade from a 1000mins plan to a 500mins plan. Which, in turn means that the aforementioned more enlightened data centric US MNOs and MVNOs have less to worry about since their data ARPUs are generally in the $25+ range.

Rick Hultz said...

I went to Starbucks today in typical fashion. In and out. I would be surprised if there is any economics in using Starbucks' locations for doing your communications.

Andy said...

As anonymous said, 1) you can receive inbound calls.

2) The Starbucks/Mylo/flat rate pricing is only a USA centric offer so the SMS usage is lower.

3)Yes Starbucks is noisy, but the signal goes outside and in SoCal and other warm climate markets you are not affected as much.

4) I have noticed a return to softer music in Starbucks as the weather has turned slightly cooler.

5) Rick-It's not about just using Starbucks, it's about using ANY T-Mobile USA location, including airline clubs and and Hotels including the Hyatt chain as well as Borders book stores and Kinkos locations.

The point is not about cheap calling. The point of the post is how Skype subverted three relationships and what the end result is.

Thanks, and cheers!


Dean Bubley said...

The point about inbound calls is not that you can't receive them... it's that you can only receive them at certain places & times. It depends if you tend to force a lot of calls to voicemail anyway, or if you generally want to be contactable as much of the time as possible.

Almost a fair point about the US and SMS (although I'm sure Tomi Ahonen would say something different). Almost nobody in the rest of the world uses mobile IM at the moment at anywhere near the scale/frequency of SMS. It might change in the future, but I wouldn't bank on it, especially as 70% of the planet uses prepay mobiles that are unlikely to be IM-friendly for years. IM clients are also rarely as well-integrated into the handset as the native SMS software(eg shared message archive etc)

I still don't see this as that subversive (or even disruptive) in the big scheme of things. Skype is doing lots of things around the periphery of cellular in different parts of the world both with carriers and independently (eg the Skype/iSkoot client on 3's new X-series, the PC & datacard-based VoIPo3G service with E-Plus in Germany, or its own VoWLAN/VoIPoCellular smartphone downloadable clients). I see most of these as incremental usage rather than substitutional. They are also generally aimed at the tiny minority of users who are experimental enough to enjoy tinkering around with this stuff.

Apart from anything else, I'll bet there will be much more Skype usage from laptops than other devices in hotspots (T-Mobile or others) for at least the next 3-4 years. I've yet to encounter a hotspot operator that generates more than 5% of logins from non-PC devices. And I'll bet that most Mylo owners have a laptop as well.

Andy said...

The Mylo audio quality is a amazing Dean. Better than any implementation of Skype on a PC, MAC or PDA. Sony went beyond GIPPS and used a company in North Carolina (whose name escapes me at the moment) and created a Binaural experience that makes the audio the user is receiving sound like it's inside their head.

Also, the carriers if the embraced FMC would not even see a blip on their balance sheets. What I think we're seeing is the chinks in their armor being exposed, that they will react and either VCC or UMA based FMC will come to life. Already as someone pointed out in a comment on my blog, Orange is doing a play which is close but not full blown FMC/Dual Mode/Call Handover.

I think we will continue to see more of these chinks exposed by those in the know, used by those who want to, but none of this is ready for prime time, mass market adoption as the mass market customer just wants a phone that works and where cellular calls don't get dropped.