May 06, 2008
Industry Speculation: Incumbents to Launch Skype Competitor?
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Senior Editor
) may soon have a new, global competitor in the form of a VoIP
provider run by a group of large telecom carriers. That’s according to speculation by ThinkPanmure, a U.S.-based research firms with offices in several major metro areas.
In a report dated May 6, ThinkPanure speculated that AT&T (News
), in partnership with 10-15 other incumbent operators (e.g. Deutsche Telecom, NTT, British Telecom) may be getting ready for 2009 launch of a VoIP provider that would compete on an international basis with Skype.
ThinkPanure based its speculation part on the harsh realities incumbent carriers now face, with many of them scrambling to compensate for the loss of wireline subscribers. The trend away from wireline is nothing new, of course; for years customers have been leaving traditional carriers in favor of services from cellular and cable TV operators and VoIP providers (such as Skype).
So far, many incumbents have responded to these losses by attempting to beef up subscriber bases with launch of new services (e.g. cellular, TV, Internet). But if ThinkPanure is correct, these measures have proven to be not enough and now carriers are seeking a new way to compete, globally, in the voice services market.
“The loss of the long-time telephone number often means that the incumbent phone operator loses the relationship with the customer entirely,” ThinkPanure noted. “The consumer can buy access for his VoIP service such as Skype from another source, such as cable modem, 3G
cellular, WiMax, or a competitive DSL/fiber carrier. If this happens, the cost to win back this subscriber can be disproportionately high, if it does ever occur.”
So, the goal would be to avoid losing customers. That means giving customers what they want: VoIP service at a very competitive rate. ThinkPanure guesses that, by pooling their resources, incumbents would be able to offer a VoIP service that “would be free when calling any other subscriber of the consortium, consisting of perhaps 10-15 incumbent
carriers around the world.”
Further adding to the value of such a partnership for the incumbents, ThinkPanure speculated, this type of service likely would only be available if customers bought their Internet access from one of the incumbents.
“That way, the incumbent, while losing some telephone revenue, can use the power of the DSL line to upgrade the customer to IPTV
or to add one or more cellular subscriptions down the road,” ThinkPanmure said in its report.
If such a scenario does come to pass, the research firms suspects that the business model involved would eventually be extended to cellular.
“The consumer would purchase 3G such as HSPA and in the future LTE (News
), from the incumbent cellular operator, on top of which the consumer would use this Skype-like service,” ThinkPanure said in its report. “We believe this is going to happen some time after this service has been implemented on DSL/fiber.”
The research firm noted that it proposed this very concept in 2003, but it was too far ahead of the times then and the idea was dismissed. Now it seems more compelling.
Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.