Part of the crack-brained argument used to suggest mobile video will be the “Next Big Thing” is that you can’t make money with HD voice. It’s true, but when’s the last time anyone other than over-the-top services generated increasing revenue on voice?
According to the video-will-give-us-cash meme, carriers have no incentive to deploy HD voice because they can’t make money with it, so they will promote videocalling – this despite the fact that it’s easier to make HD voice work on a mobile phone, both in terms of experience and technology. The deeper issue here is carriers haven’t been generating on voice for a while, and they are starting to lose money from SMS text services.
The whole construct of voice services making money is built around minutes, but for many local and longer distance callers in the U.S., it’s been an all-you-can-eat world for years. The business world is shifting to unlimited/”free” calling as it moves to SIP trunking and hosting. Free intra-site/”on-net” calling for businesses is an expected feature these days and you’re starting to see more “free” on-net calling on a carrier-based basis, such as with Verizon’s (News - Alert) VIPER SIP exchange service; if two businesses are on VIPER, they can make no-cost calls to each other.
When the smoke clears, the only people making money are over-the-top services (OTT) using the Internet to play arbitrage with long-distance calling. Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Skype is the biggest player in the pennies-per-minute game, but there’s nothing carriers would like to do more than put a stake through the whole OTT game. OTT is a rally cry for Metaswitch, and its message to both smaller and larger carriers is encouraging them to more aggressively move in with their own we-own-it-we-bill-it OTT services offerings. So even OTT won’t be a big cash cow in the long run.
In the (admittedly limited) HD voice deployments to date, nobody has charged extra for HD voice. Just like nobody charged extra for HDTV broadcasts. Sure, there was a lot of talk about how TV stations could make money through datacasting using excess capacity on their RF spectrum, but it never yielded big money.
France Telecom (News - Alert), and other mobile carriers starting to deploy HD voice, realizes it is a differentiator in a competitive market. Sprint (News - Alert) has gained significant advantage in talking up HD voice service in the U.S. because it is the first carrier to aggressively do so. It temporarily separates them from the rest of the U.S. marketplace until carriers like MetroPCS and Verizon Wireless (News - Alert) can refine their messaging and introduce equivalent services.
Ultimately, everyone will have HD voice service. The question becomes how much and how long of an advantage offering HD voice service first or second in the market will be in terms of retaining existing customers and gaining new ones looking for the latest and greatest features.
Edited by Braden Becker