June 1, 2010
4:35 PM -- Don’t let the headlines and scare tactics fool you: Mobile VoIP is really not a big deal. That’s the opinion of Heavy Reading contributing analyst Bob Poe, who maintains that the whole mobile VoIP movement is a bit overstated.
A lot of projections may paint a different picture, but the reason Poe isn’t buying the hoopla is because, at least in the US, VoIP doesn’t let users realize significant cost savings under today’s wireless pricing structures.
If carriers move away from all-you-can-eat flat rates, as many are suggesting they should, it could be a different story. But today, mobile VoIP is stymied by restrictive and expensive wireless plans. (See Telcordia: More Services Are the Answer.)
Even today’s Skype Ltd. news that seemingly cuts AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) out of the equation isn’t a big deal, Poe says. Adding a fee to Skype-to-Skype service won’t have much of an effect on consumers who are used to paying a flat-rate fee for all services on mobile. Mobile VoIP has never been free anyway, he says. (See What's AT&T Getting From Skype? and Skype 3G App Lands on iPhone.)
“In Verizon Wireless’s case, the customer had to pay the cellular carrier for voice minutes,” Poe says. “Now, with AT&T they have to pay Skype directly, but they go through the mobile network. I wonder whether it will ever be possible for free Skype-to-Skype calls on mobile devices.” (See Verizon Wireless Gets Skype.)
The best, or maybe only, way for mobile users to actually save money with Skype would be if a wireless operator offered a cheap data plan coupled with a bare-bones (or no) voice plan, Poe noted, but that’s not something we see much of today.
It is more likely that wireless operators (at least those that are smart) won’t offer plans that ever actually allow users to realize the benefits of mobile VoIP. If they do, restrictions -- either from the operator, as in Verizon’s case, or the VoIP provider, as in Skype on AT&T’s case -- will kill that benefit all together.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile
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