VoIP applications have proven to be an increasingly useful and cost effective tool for smartphone users, but a fast developing threat for mobile network operators. After much time and energy spent trying to fight them, it seems that many large mobile network operators have decided to join the party and are showing signs of succumbing to the VoIP revolution, particularly when it comes to international phone calls.
Applications such as Skype and Viber have had real and significant impacts on the revenues of mobile network operators all over the world. As such, some operators have tried blocking these services but have had a significant amount of customer backlash as a result.
It appears the only option now is to offer a similar or competing product. AT&T is one of the big players that has made a move into VoIP, through their “Call International” service, which effectively outsources it to 8×8. Another major operator, Telefonica, is using separate VoIP infrastructure to its core network (through Jajah).
Mobile network operators can either adopt a primary or second line approach when it comes to rolling out VoIP plans. Second line is the easier option, as it is technically less complicated. The flipside is that second line services require an app of their own.
With a primary line, customers would only need their phone number and no other applications to be running. The challenge for networks however, is coverage. As a customer moves between areas on the same call, it may need to be transferred across different types of network (for example, LTE to 3G) to be able to keep the call connected.
Until these intricacies are resolved, VoIP services are likely to keep growing as second line services. In due course, the default may be a primary service, but time will tell.