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Friday, June 25, 2010

Mobile operators' future voice strategies decoded

Apologies in advance, but this blog post is deliberately a bit of a tease.

I'm not going to spell out the answer here, as it's too valuable to open-source at this stage.

You may remember that a week or so ago, one of my consultancy & analysis peers released a study suggesting that some carriers might exit voice altogether.

Yes, I think that's an option too. But it's not an either-or, IMS/VoLTE or nothing situation.

I have identified at least six or seven different scenarios. In my view, the one defining feature about mobile voice in 2020 is that it will be *much* more heterogenous than it is today. We will definitely not all have the same "telephony" experience - or maybe even the same lowest common denominator.

Some people will have a version of today's voice - good coverage, pretty cast-iron reliability, excellent "reachability", quite expensive (especially roaming) and anchored in your existing operator's core network and billing plans.

But that will be only part of the environment. Others will be using VoIP of various types and qualities - some of which will be better than "traditional" circuit telephony. There will probably be a role for IMS in some operators, and Skype or Google in others, perhaps VoLGA in still more. Numbering and termination regimes will get more complex, not simpler. It certainly wouldn't surprise me to see some operators end up as so-called over-the-top providers of voice on other networks.

Luckily, the population is getting much better at multi-tasking and segmenting its communications experience. Multiple IMs addresses, logins, devices, numbers and other identifiers.

Despite the industry bodies crying wolf about the dangers of losing ubiquity, this is not a "tragedy of the commons" scenario. Fragmentation will add value and consumer utility, not reduce it.

As always, divergence will be more important than convergence. Multiplicity will rule, not unification.

Gateway vendors will do better than many of those dependent on integrated end-to-end standardised silos - although there will still be a few behemoths able to control particular value chains or geographic markets.

I'm not going to give away the full set of scenarios I see evolving in this blog post - or the impact on the existing mobile voice and VoIP communities, device vendors, messaging or social network providers and assorted others. In many ways, there are still plenty of variables anyway, especially regulatory ones.

I realise that many of my peers and rivals read this blog - and this is one area where I think I have a significantly different viewpoint from most of them. I also have a lot broader coverage - 2.0, 4G, spectrum, devices & OS's, operator business models, APIs, silicon, network policy & architecture, enterprise, cloud services - which are essential to pulling the pieces of the puzzle together in a meaningful way.

It means that I can consider factors like SMS, lawful intercept, indoor coverage, prepay, battery life, web/cloud voice integration, CEBP, HD voice, video, test & measurement, EU roaming & wholesale rules, Apple & Android, IP-PBXs, QoS, new devices...

In coming months I will be talking through my views about The Future of Mobile Voice with many of you in briefings, or at conferences. I will also be publishing some of the analysis in future research documents.

But if you want to get a heads-up in advance, or a more customised viewpoint, please contact me about ways Disruptive Analysis can help you move forward and position your company.

information AT disruptive-analysis dot com

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