It has been five years since mobile VoIP services were first introduced as an alternative for making cheap international calls. Mobile VoIP services faced stiff resistance from mobile operators, who saw their profits eroding as a result of VoIP usage. Now with the explosion of social media, VoIP technology is becoming an integrated component of social media services being offered on mobile devices.
In-Stats a market research firm expects that mobile VoIP users will grow to nearly 139 million by 2014, thanks to the need of social media services to have a VoIP component for voice or video communication. This has resulted in a catch 22 situation for mobile operators, who are falling hand over fist over competitors in order to launch location and social media services in order to gain new subscribers. But in order to provide these social services they would also have to enable VoIP features, a road that they have resisted travelling for so long as it had the potential to eat away the traditional revenue base of mobile operators i.e. revenues from mobile cellular calls.
According to Amy Cravens, Market Analyst at In-Stats:
Mobile VoIP is gaining real market presence with usage rates climbing rapidly. As it becomes further incorporated into other mobile apps, specifically social networking apps, the realm of potential use is expected to broaden. This has created a great deal of jockeying among mobile VoIP players trying to develop market share and mobile operators trying to determine the best response to this potentially disruptive service offering.
In-Stat predicts that mobile operators will gradually remove all barriers to mobile VoIP usage, however they will try to ensure that the new services are introduced as a way to connect socially with friends and family and not to make mobile VoIP calls. However, it is hard to believe that any marketing angle on the new services will be able to stop users from exploiting mobile VoIP in ways that benefits them.
Some other findings of the research include:
- T-Mobile subscribers had the greatest incidence of mobile VoIP usage; nearly twice that of total respondents.
- Total 2014 revenues will be split between the EMEA (39%), Asia/Pacific (32%), North America (21%), and the rest of the world (8%).
- Because mobile VoIP is portable, users can bring the benefits of VoIP with them when traveling abroad and avoid the expensive roaming fees that mobile operators charge.
Technology at the end of the day carve out its own path, we strongly believe that no amount of resistance on part of mobile operators will stop mobile VoIP technology from becoming mainstream, eventually.