Technology Appraisals, a consultancy based in the UK, has recently completed a comprehensive global study on “Low Cost & Mobile VoIP.” The study profiles 30 new mobile players in detail and gives summary tables, illustrations and comparisons. It provides a clear picture of who is in this business, where they come from, where are they operating, who is backing them, and what is on offer.
I maintain a list of about 700+ Web/Telco 2.0 application companies, which includes the low cost and mobile VoIP players, and this report showed I’d missed several, so it’s definitely comprehensive. The providers evaluated include Barablu, cellity, Challenger Mobile, Cubic / MAXroam, EQO, fring, Gizmo, iSkoot, JAJAH, Jangl, jaxtr, mig33, MiNO, MobileMax, MOBIVOX, Morodo / MO-Call, Nimbuzz, PhoneGnome, Raketu, Rebtel, Skype, TalkPlus, Talkster, Tpad, TringMe, Truphone, Velofone, Vyke, WiFiMobile, and Yeigo.
About two years ago I did a report on a “Market Assessment of VoIP Bypass Roaming and Operator impact / Proposition: Regulations, Tariffs, Deployment Options / Feasibility, Market Feedback, Operator Business Case, and Operator Impact Analysis / Proposition.” As mobile broadband is now taking off we’re entering a phase where the opportunities for “low cost and mobile VoIP” are increasing.
As roaming rates increase for those outside the EU. For example, Informa Telecoms and Media claims that in general roaming charges have risen by around 163% since the EU capped rates at 0.49 euros a minute for making calls and 0.24 euros for receiving them within the EU. The attractiveness of these services increases. An analogy is frequently drawn between these companies and Skype, in that it did not significantly impact the landline market, because of the inconvenience of being at the PC and have a headset connected; and to the recent failures of Jangl and TalkPlus compound this view. As always the obvious takes longer to happen than we think, mobile access to the internet “was going to happen in 2000,” and 8 years later its just taking off. With start-ups they only have about 2 years to wait for the market, after which time the investors pull the plug. So such failures are part of the innovation process, as investors place bets on when the market will take off.
However, given the smarts of a mobile phone and laptop, the applications can become ‘hidden’ from the user experience, i.e. I just select a contact in my address book and call, then the application makes the decisions behind the scenes on how the call is made. All I see are greatly reduced roaming rates. We’re already witnessing niches adopting these applications, particularly families that are spread across several countries, small and medium sized companies with operations in several countries, and of course students. As the usability issues become transparent to the core use case of “select contact and press green button,” it will be interesting to see if these niches are able to drive into a broader segment of business customers that can impact operators into action.