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November 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 11
The Zippy Files

Voice is Still King

Service Providers have been looking for “killer apps” for years. They must continually introduce tantalizing new offerings to remain competitive. They need to reduce churn and pay for such things as their glistening new infrastructures that support mobile communications, the platform for many of these new services. However, a new survey/study of 250 North American mobile device users by AppTrigger, Inc., conducted in August 2008, reveals that although 74 percent of users want advanced applications, they still prefer voice as their main communications media. Thus, the “killer” social networking application is still voice.

Device makers continue to expand the capabilities of the mobile handset while developers keep these devices populated with advanced applications; presenting service providers with new ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) tools. Still, the habit of picking up and speaking into a device appears to be a powerful one, a trait we picked up with the invention of the telephone itself more than 100 years ago. Half of the mobile surveyed said they use voicemail at least once a day (88 percent at least weekly). Ironically, a majority of these same users said they want their phones to have advanced features such as mobile email capabilities, but in fact only 22 percent of them use it at least daily, and 41 percent at least weekly. (Social text messaging fares a bit better, with 31 percent partaking of it at least daily and 59 percent using it at least weekly.)

The top three applications rated by the survey participants were voicemail (most important to 87 percent of those surveyed), text messaging (68 percent) and mobile cameras (67 percent). The three lowest were mobile video (27 percent), mobile music (34 percent) and games (39 percent). Therefore, although users are attracted to mobile devices by entertainment and trendy services (“adjacent needs”) they nevertheless have rock-solid “core needs” involving basic communication, information, access and connectivity. These must be predictable in their behavior. Replicating existing successful services in new network environments can upset users if the new service doesn’t emulate the original service. This can be a bit tricky, since applications historically have been optimized for one particular network type.

The survey concludes that users are “trapped” in 2003-type offerings. They continue to rely mostly on good old Voice. The survey suggests that users are willing to adopt new services but these aren’t being pushed out quickly enough to stimulate use. For example, in the past five years, 52 percent of respondents began text messaging more frequently, while 23 percent now use their phone for mobile email. AppTrigger itself believes that service providers are largely locked into proprietary applications suites and are “hindered by complex connectivity issues owed to the service providers’ underlying infrastructure issues”. The mobile carrier market is thus falling short in leveraging their revenue-producing voice subscribers into new services opportunities.

“Since traditional voice is still the killer application with mobile users,” says AppTrigger’s Patrick Fitzgerald (News - Alert), SVP of Global Sales and Marketing, “the carrier market’s inability to maximize ARPU is the residual effect of a greater short coming. If operators were equipped to continue building ARPU on multiple network architectures, taking advantage of new and old, they would be able to leverage Voice as a feature to create new applications for incremental service revenue.”

To leverage existing voice services along with new next-gen applications, operators need clever network migration strategies that offer the benefits of advanced services on new and legacy networks.

AppTrigger’s own solution to this is their Ignite Application Session Controller (ASC (News - Alert)). The ASC is AppTrigger’s own invention; it’s a versatile network element that handles media, signaling, call control, negotiating and managing connections between the application and services layer, and the underlying network layer, thus enabling service providers to generate the most revenue from existing services while making it easier to introduce new applications.

Whatever the migration strategy for providers, voice remains our primary form of communication. IT

Richard Grigonis (News - Alert) is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

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