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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mobile VoIP - nobody's a pure play

Truphone has just raised a new round of financing - against a tough market for speculative investments in VoIP at the moment, it has to be said. However, the wording of the release, coupled with last week's acquisition of SIM4Travel, indicates that VoIP is only a part of the wider mobility story for the company.

This strategy makes intuitive sense. The most likely response to VoIP-based pricing erosion is for the existing mobile operators to cut their prices, offer flat rates and so forth. Most end users won't be prepared to download software clients, swap SIMs all the time, do manual network re-selects, initiate calls from PCs, or jump through any of the hoops that commonly apply in the sector. That said, roaming mobile users are still getting sick of unjustifiably high tariffs, even if the intra-EU situation has improved a bit since last year's regulatory intervention.

Consequently, running a mobile network (with bits of MVNO), issuing SIM cards, and crucially being able to offer a fully-integrated SMS service, makes a lot of sense. It's notable that the term "VoIP" doesn't appear in either of the most recent press releases.

On the other hand, what I suspect may be more difficult will be for the company to integrate other mobile data services onto handsets - I'm not aware of any reseller or MVNO operators in Europe selling 3G cards, or data bundles. However, the current target audience for Truphone probably tends to travel equipped with a laptop, Blackberry or other device anyway.

I'm expecting most of the standalone Mobile VoIP players to start to integrate cellular connectivity into their offerings, offering blends of WiFi, VoIPo3G, call-through and special SIMs, backed by a variety of social networking / Web 2.0 capabilities. Skype (in conjunction with partner iSkoot) is already there, and fring tends to co-exist with handsets' native cellular services (and is usually viewed comparatively benignly compared with the more disruptive models of the others).

2 comments:

John said...

wrto data bundles on MVNOs, I think Virgin Mobile UK is going to offer something in the next few months, but that might just be a small bundle for not-very-smart handsets

teletester said...

on the supposed lack of MVNO data propositions, several Dutch MVNO's such as debitel and tele2 do offer mobile data. Needless to say reselling conditions are modest, due to operators' strategic focus on the issue.