VoIP pushes industry to HD voice

John C. Tanner
Telecom Asia

Granted, there are caveats in place - while mobile VoIP subscribers are free to use any VoIP client they wish on SK Telecom's data network, actual mobile VoIP usage will be metered and capped to avoid data congestion.

What's striking is SK Telecom's public admission that the operator's previous objections to VoIP - that it "might act as a disincentive to carriers to make investments and hinder industrial development," as president and CEO Jung Man-Won put it during the press conference - have been overridden by the realization that the pros of VoIP outweigh the cons.

"The introduction of m-VoIP is projected to have a negative effect on our revenues in the short term. However, we expect bigger positive effects in the mid- to long term," Jaeeun Namgung, manager of SK Telecom's pricing strategy team, told Telecom Asia. "It will deliver greater customer satisfaction and help us better retain our customers as we'll be providing them with a wider range of experience and options. Also, we expect growth in our ARPU and revenues as we attract new high paying customers and as our existing users switch to higher priced plans."

Interestingly, Namgung didn't specifically mention HD voice as a particular benefit of mobile VoIP, focusing instead on VoIP's inherent flexibility in terms of creating new voice apps and business models that would be too difficult to do with traditional voice.
"For instance, m-VoIP functions can be added to various applications including real-time remote lecture system, remote health-care service and  real-time games," she said.

That said, however, the HD capabilities of voice certainly wouldn't hurt in any of those apps or services.

Either way, analysts are tipping mobile VoIP as a major growth opportunity. Frost & Sullivan says mobile VoIP will generate $29.57 billion by 2015, despite ongoing resistance from cellcos. And a May report from Ovum warned cellcos that those that choose to block or avoid VoIP do so at their own risk.

"Blocking VoIP is like trying to control the tides. Most mobile operators today have attempted different means of hindering the use of VoIP, or are cautiously monitoring usage," said Steven Hartley, principal analyst at Ovum and report co-author. "However, these approaches merely garner negative publicity from vocal early adopters demanding access."

NEXT: VoIP's next trick: mobile HD video calls




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