I am still out to lunch on this whole thing with P2P mobile phones and similar devices. The idea is sound enough, but will it really ever fly to the point of standard mobile technologies being used today? At risk of setting myself up to be wrong, I am going to say no. Well, at least not in its current form anyway.
With 52 million downloads and counting since its commercial launch in August 2004, Skype has clearly fuelled consumers’ passion for free voice calls over the Internet. Estimated to carry 25% of annual VoIP traffic (as counted by TeleGeography), or the equivalent of 4% of total international traffic worldwide, the impact of Skype and other VOIP applications could put a serious dent in mobile operators’ revenues.
The scenario for the mobile industry turns from bad to worse when Skype is embedded in a 3G phone or Wi-Fi-enabled device, and falling data prices offer users a much cheaper alternative to cellular voice. Indeed, one eager Taiwanese handset manufacturer recently wrote an open letter to Skype asking for the privilege to be the first to embed the technology in its 3G phones, leading many to believe such handsets will appear this year.
While Skype has clearly caused a shift in the consumer telephony market, security and admin concerns have kept it out of the enterprise market. That lucrative enterprise segment is likely to belong to little-known newcomers including Canada’s Nimcat, a provider of embedded call processing software, and Popular Telephony, a telecom middleware company with offices in France and Israel.
For the moment, both companies have their sights set on the fixed market, where it’s much easier for enterprises to replace their voice providers with VOIP applications running over data networks. Their P2P technology, which moves the intelligence from the centralized PBX down to end users’ devices, eliminates the need for expensive telecoms infrastructure. The companies’ roadmaps, though, take aim at mobile users, offering carriers a stark choice: ignore the technology and let it decimate their businesses, or acknowledge it and integrate it into their offerings.