VoIP shakes mobile to its foundations

John C. Tanner
15/06/2010
News
Commentary

By the time you read this, Skype CEO Josh Silverman will have kicked off the conference sessions at the Summit this morning. It will be interesting to see if he gets the same reception that Google chief Eric Schmidt got at the Mobile World Congress - which is to say, an odd but potent blend of admiration and hostility from a telecom base that sees web-based companies like Google and Skype as interlopers trying to disrupt and undermine their business.

Granted, the telecom sector is more accepting of VoIP these days, though not necessarily to the point of welcoming over-the-top players like Skype into the voice business. The mobile space has been even less enthusiastic about VoIP, either as a competitor to its core cash cow or as a bandwidth hog on 3.5 networks.

But Skype has been working to change that, citing November figures from its partnership with 3 UK showing that mobile Skype clients not only reduce cellco churn, but also actually boost traditional voice and SMS usage rather than cannibalize it. Verizon Wireless was convinced enough to sign a deal with Skype earlier this year.

Whether more cellcos are willing to follow suit remains to be seen, especially now that Skype has launched a new iPhone client that enables calls over 3G, for which Skype will eventually charge money. Cellcos that already block mobile VoIP on general principle may see that as a further threat, while others may see it as a revenue-sharing opportunity waiting to happen.

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