If you can’t be ‘em, join ‘em. There was a time when over-the-top (OTT) mobile voice-over-IP (mVoIP) apps such as Skype (News - Alert) Mobile were as welcome by mobile carriers as new competitors. But now things have changed. Not only can smartphone users easily make calls to landlines using Skype, they now are starting to see mVoIP solutions offered directly by carriers.
“A number of European and US carriers have decided to meet the third-party app providers head-on, with their own-branded applications for IP comms voice and messaging,” noted a recent mVoIP advisory by market analyst firm Current Analysis. “Unlike the generic positioning of IP comms OTT apps such as Viber or Skype, carrier mVoIP apps tend to demonstrate a more varied, and segmented positioning.”
Whether developing mVoIP solutions from scratch or leveraging branded third-party solutions such as REVE System’s iTel Mobile Dialer Express, which gives operators a turnkey mVoIP offering available on all major smartphone platforms including the Symbian (News - Alert) OS, carriers are starting to embrace mVoIP as a technology that is not going away.
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The advisory notes six ways that carriers currently are using mVoIP.
First, carriers are experimenting with offering mVoIP as a solution for frequent travelers, notes the Current Analysis advisory.
“Early examples of carrier mVoIP for roaming all attempt to generate revenue, either directly as a premium service, or indirectly by allowing customers to ‘use’ their home package’s national mobile minutes whilst using the application abroad,” the advisory noted.
Using the same technology in the other direction, carriers also are promoting mVoIP as a cheap way to stay in contact with loved ones abroad—the bread and butter of OTT services such as Skype, where some studies have suggested that around a third of all international calls now go through Skype.
In addition to frequent travelers and those wishing to stay in contact more cheaply with loved ones abroad, Current Analysis reports that carriers also are targeting mVoIP at the youth segment.
“In Europe, at least two carriers have launched a messaging and voice application as a retention lever for the youth segment,” according to the advisory, “both using Facebook (News - Alert) to aid viral marketing. The variance is in the overall pricing proposition.”
A fourth carrier target of mVoIP so far is the bring-your-own-device crowd. T-Mobile (News - Alert) in particular, finds Current Analysis, is trying to appeal to business users by making their BYOD devices more business ready with mVoIP solutions.
But two of the largest ways carriers are using mVoIP is simple defensive tactics: Carrier mVoIP is being used as a cost-saving app for customers locked into long-term contracts with rivals, and it is being employed as an OTT offset.
“In Germany, prepaid brand Blau.de has deployed an mVoIP app, explicitly positioned as a cost-saving app for long-term contract customers of rival carriers, tied on a flatrate mobile data packages with expensive out-of-bundle mobile calling rates,” noted the advisory. Instead of using cellular minutes, consumers could make cheaper calls using the Blau.de Android (News - Alert) smartphone app.
Carriers may not be able to stop mVoIP from disrupting their cellular business, but apparently they can direct the disruption toward their rivals.