Take it from InformationWeek’s BYTE: VoIP is going to rock your world.
“Voice and video over Internet protocol is exploding -- via both new consumer apps and enterprise-targeted services,” the industry journal says, gushing that “VoIP is on the brink of ubiquity. The floodgates are opening. Already Skype (News - Alert) is available across almost every conceivable platform and device... I easily can imagine a future where Google and its abundant fiber become the de facto telecom company.”
It’s a long study, nicely in-depth, too much good stuff to summarize here and well worth the read if you really want a handy road map for where VoIP’s heading in coming months. Some of the highlights:
Power players like Microsoft and Google (News - Alert) have likely pushed the surge, moving VoIP beyond second-tier players offering edgy services and toward truly ubiquitous, mainstream availability. Analyst Rob Enderle says "Traditional voice is going away… that particular part of the (traditional carrier) business has become obsolete and now we're just waiting for the market to finish the process" to turn everything digital.
Skype for iPad remains among the top free apps in the iTunes store. More than 27 million people are currently logged in to Skype's network at this writing, a number that doesn't even include the millions of potential Skype video chats going on via Facebook (News - Alert). Skype now offers the option to SkypeIn to a dedicated number, a clear replacement option for traditional home phones.
A rash of recent VoIP announcements had pricing at the core -- a clear move toward expanding VoIP beyond early adopters and into the mainstream. Google Voice lowered rates to 150 dialing destinations. Vonage's new iPhone (News - Alert) app provides fifteen minute calls for under two bucks to a hundred countries with a free trial.
Neither Skype nor any of the other VoIP providers have yet reached critical mass, but VoIP itself has, leaving only generational barriers and general aversion to change as the remaining barriers to a mainstream VoIP revolution.
The analog system cannot survive in the midst of this explosive move toward ubiquitous VoIP. "If (carriers are) smart, they can occupy an important piece of the future public switched telephone network by putting a strong IMS platform in place and integrating well with their (VoIP providers), the question is whether they're going to be that smart or nimble," says tech research firm Gartner.
IMS stands for IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert), an architectural framework most closely associated with 3G and 4G networks. Agress describes it as a set of standards that will take VoIP and allow it to be implemented on an industrial scale. It could also be the carriers' best hope for staying relevant in the long-term, although none has brought an IMS-based offering to market just yet.
Everyone BYTE spoke with for this story agrees that the traditional phone system will remain in place for some time. No other single network penetrates as many homes and businesses worldwide yet, but Enderle believes the younger users of the products announced this month will continue to push the generational movement towards VoIP forward.
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David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Juliana Kenny