But with impeccable timing, there's also another announcement (OK, yes I'm quoted in it) from Finnish IMS software vendor Movial, relating to a contract with Taiwanese operator FarEasTone for enabling its new VoIP service on both handsets and laptops. This includes the use of voice on its HSPA macro network, plus its in-home HSPA router with WiFi.
I reckon that this is the first 'official' operator-branded VoIPo3G service, except for some 3G-based IMS-PoC push-to-talk services like DoCoMo's, plus non-IMS partnerships like Skype/E-Plus.
Some interesting things to note
- firstly, FarEasTone pushes pretty hard on a whole host of technologies. It announced its IMS/HSPA deployment contract with Ericsson in September 2006.
- secondly, Skype has huge penetration in Taiwan, which is definitely a catalyst for operators' own VoIP launches, as people are looking for ways to mobilise it as well as using it on fixed broadband. This also seems to indicate that there's a substantial % of voice traffic for which 'best efforts' is perfectly acceptable.
- thirdly, FET is also a WiMAX licence-holder (it recently signed a deal with Alcatel-Lucent) for southern Taiwan and so is likely to benefit services that can ultimately bridge HSPA, WiMAX and WiFi.
- fourthly, Taiwan and FET have relatively low levels of prepay use compared with contract subscribers, which makes it easier to subsidise high-end devices, or for mobile operators to enter fixed-broadband markets.
This all suggests that VoIP on FET's HSPA network might not be as spectrally-efficient as circuit yet, although in this instance the unique characteristics of the Taiwanese market appear to mean that competitive gains offset this consideration.
Because of these fairly unique factors, I'm not expecting too many other HSPA operators to follow suit, at least in this specific way, before 2009. Apart from anything else, there aren't too many phones which have HSUPA as well as HSDPA, although that should change by H2 2008, with massmarket devices available in 2009.
What I see more likely is for an increasing number of operator VoIPo3G partnerships with the Skypes/Truphones/Frings of this world in the near term. Plus some more laptop-based VoIP services. But more on that later....