More than 50 percent of mobile voice will be VoIP end to end by 2019, analysts at Gartner (News - Alert) Group say. Perhaps more disturbing for mobile service providers is the prediction that 30 percent of mobile voice traffic will be initiated or terminated through third-party mobile portals such as Google (News - Alert), Facebook, MySpace and Yahoo, which will adopt wireless VoIP service as a part of their basic features.
And that poses a huge risk to incumbents in the $692.6 billion global mobile voice market, and a huge opportunity for over-the-top providers.
But Gartner analysts do not expect most of that shift to occur for at least five years and perhaps as long as eight years. "Mass-scale adoption of end-to-end mobile VoIP calling will not happen until fourth-generation networks are fully implemented in 2017,” says Tole Hart, Gartner research director.
The upshot is that Gartner now expects portals to be competing directly with mobile providers, resellers and mobile virtual network operators in the mobile voice space, though perhaps primarily as providers of in-group and in-community communications between community members.
But though the competition will involve mobile voice, it may be text messaging and email that represent the largest volume of messages, not necessarily voice.
All of this inevitably raises the issue of how incumbent mobile providers will react, beyond doing what they can in the short term to delay an inevitable transition to IP-based voice and communications provided over the top of any broadband connection.
Eventually, after a transition period, over the top mobile VoIP will become so widespread that mobile providers will have to decide how much to compete and how much to partner or co-opt such services.
In the meantime, it likely is WiMAX (News - Alert) and Wi-Fi-based mobile calling that will prepare the groundwork for mobile VoIP on a wider scale. In part that is because WiMAX operators will have lots of incentives to offer an application the major mobile providers are resisting.
But Wi-Fi will be important because it already is a form of mobile voice access mobile carriers do not prevent, and because Wi-Fi increasingly is prevalent in home, office and public locations.
There are other conceivable developments. In principle, what is the difference between a single voice line, either mobile or fixed, and Centrex? And if hosted IP telephony is the new and better Centrex, why would some providers not create over-the-top hosted IP telephony services that simply use whatever mobile handsets users have, so long as they are smart phones running on mobile broadband networks? Granted, there are some potentially tricky issues to resolve, some legal, some regulatory, some economic.
In other words, if the future mobile environment includes network-based and over-the-top voice and messaging providers, why would it not also, at some point, include over-the-top and mobile PBX providers? A hosted service is, after all, in the cloud.
Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Jessica Kostek