VOIP services

MW13: Tu Go Users Get Chatty

NICE, France -- Management World 2013 -- Telefónica Digital's own voice-over-IP (VoIP) service, Tu Go, is encouraging its customers to chat more, and the app is taking up 10 to 15 percent of their total communications time. That statistic, presented by Stephen Shurrock, CEO of new business ventures at Telefónica Digital here in Nice, may seem like a low percentage, but keep in mind that Tu Go is only two months old. Shurrock didn't divulge any subscriber numbers, but noted that it has driven an overall increase in communication -- voice, text, and video chat included -- amongst Telefónica customers. (See Texting & the Phone Get Divorced.) The service lets a user keep their phone number but make calls on any device and across cellular, Wi-Fi or (soon) IP connection; that means the call is not necessarily going over Telefónica's network. But, on the plus side, it has kept its customers out of the open arms of popular alternative OTT services such as WhatsApp and Viber. Shurrock also said that Telefónica has seen phone calls increasingly being initiated on PCs and, increasingly, on tablets rather than on smartphones, increasing the value of voice-call capabilities to the operator's customers. "We need to make sure we continue to innovate in the core communications space," he told the audience. (See Et Tu, Telefónica?) That's one half of the goal of Telefónica's 18-month-old Digital division. The operator uses Digital to protect its core business as well as to generate new revenues from other industry verticals and new opportunities, such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Tu Go, and its predecessor Tu Me, is a good example of this approach: The operator launched Tu Me, a free unified communications app for any mobile user, as a beta service in mid-2012 after just 100 days of development. Jamie Finn, Telefónica Digital's director of communications products, who heads up both products, predicts that every carrier in the world will copy this cloud-based communications model in due time. In the U.S., Verizon Wireless has already gotten on board by moving SMS to the cloud, and the rest are watching the OTT market carefully. "The [Tu] Go service is something every phone company in the world will have in five years time," Finn told Light Reading last month. "It makes it more useful, it's charged for, it increases usage [and] people like it. It's going to be copied everywhere." — Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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