Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.
The disruption that the advent of Skype caused to telecoms operators was initially viewed as a challenge to the fixed line market – to international calls from landlines. But times have changed, and once again the app phenomenon is at the root of the problem for the mobile carrier community.
Apps for services such as Skype and Viber turn a mobile phone, tablet or a computer into a VoIP handset and often cut the carrier out of the picture. In fact, services like Viber not only hijack the operator network, they grab information stored on handsets, in particular the address book, and tell users which of their friends they can connect with on Viber. On some smartphones, the simple act of making a call automatically triggers the question – do you want to use Skype, Viber or “Phone?”
These are services that can look like they are totally integrated into the operator network and service, and yet they are exactly the opposite. They fly in, over the top of the operator, cozy up to the customer and capture their attention, their loyalty and their value-added dollars.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Operator-provided voice over mobile broadband, which includes voice over Wi-Fi and VoLTE, provides a route for operators to provide this today with a cloud-based service delivery platform as a bonus to further reduce costs.
There is a misconception that operators need to wait for the roll-out of next generation LTE networks to provide these new voice services, which is simply not true – Skype and Viber are not sitting around waiting for LTE, so why should the operators?
The migration to cloud-supported, next-generation VoMBB can begin now with operators providing VoWi-Fi using the same voice (and video) call control infrastructure that will be needed in the future for VoLTE. What’s more, the same infrastructure will also support voice over HSPA in the future.
This cloud-based approach of delivering VoMBB, regardless of data path, will enable operators to get a fast start on enhanced services. In fact, the cloud can become a fast-route-to-market service delivery platform for the host of operator-provided, fully integrated services that go far beyond voice. Integrated messaging, video conferencing and being able to add and remove these services dynamically during a session are just the beginning.
This cloud based concept will allow mobile operators to reinvigorate and expand their product and service portfolios. It capitalizes on the operators’ core proposition of ubiquity, reliability and reach, providing a common approach to a set of new value-added services – not just VoIP services but other innovations, such as group instant messaging or chat, live video or file sharing that works across any device or access network.
But even in this data-centric world, the operator fight back needs to begin with voice. Allowing OTT services to hijack the heritage voice service marginalizes the operator on its core proposition – reliable and great quality voice.
By fighting back with a series of app-based services of its own – starting with VoMBB as the operator’s flagship offering – operators can begin to turn back the tide. VoMBB can be the vanguard of a new wave of operator controlled services and applications that reclaim the hearts and minds of the smartphone generation.
Of course, operators will struggle to be “the coolest kid in the class,” but they do have a strong claim on being the “trusted friend,” the one that we all rely on. And that reputation begins with voice – everybody trusts the operator to deliver voice. What the new players have going for them is a disruptive pricing model and a customer friendly means of accessing the low-cost alternative; there is nothing today stopping operators from replicating the cost and service delivery model.
Voice is the strongest weapon in the operator’s armory to begin the fight back. It’s time that voice was heard again.
Pardeep Kohli, President and CEO, Mavenir Systems, is a wireless industry Veteran with 18 years of experience. Pardeep, as co-founder, President and CEO, led Spatial Wireless, the mobile next generation networking market leader, to broad success across the US market. Following the acquisition by Alcatel, as SVP of the Mobile NGN business, Pardeep led the continued expansion and success of the Spatial Wireless product across the global market place. Pardeep has worked in multiple roles at NEC America, DSC, Alcatel and PacBell. While at PacBell, Pardeep participated in the technology selection and network implementation of the first large U.S. GSM network.