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Should we really expect VoIP to be accepted by Mobile Operators? January 20, 2011

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.

As a reply to the blog post by Joakim Jardenberg (a popular Swedish IT/Media blogger) I have a couple of insights that might shed some light on the situation of VoIP applications in the mobile networks in Sweden specifically. Currently I do not work at or with a mobile operator, but I have a pretty good idea of how mobile operators around Europe think, as I used to work close with them for some years in the mobile virtual operator (MVNO) segment.

For the first time there seems to be a real discussion in Sweden about VoIP-applications on the mobile networks. This is a few years too late or a few years too early, depending on how you see it. In for example the UK the VoIP in mobile networks has been blocked for many years. When programming mobile phone applications for iOS (iPhone specifically) the developers can easily get information from the phone if a VoIP-call will be allowed or not for the current mobile data connection. Other more important information, such as if the iPhone in use is roaming or not, is a well defined call, so the VoIP-connection limitation is clearly a known situation by developers. The debate now comes to life again in Sweden, and I think this is due to the recent 4G launches in there.

Joakim says (in relation to the somewhat bizarre statement from 3): “But what? I paid for my data connection? I have paid for the data connection already. What am I hotwiring when this is my own connection?

As a reply to this, I think we all need to understand the differentiation between data connections. If you compare for example an internet connection via Cable (Comcast/UPC/ComHem etc) you will find that you are not allowed to for example host a server there. This is accepted by most, since a “real” internet connection via fiber to for example a server rack is much more expensive to buy and produce.

So let’s look at some circumstances about wireless/mobile data access. The bandwidth is not unlimited due to frequency licensing situations. Priority (QoS) always costs more to handle as it takes more bandwidth for the same amount of data than the actual voice stream. One can compare the GSM standard of just under 10 kb/s to for example Skype that uses roughly 30kbit/s, to a standard SIP connection that usually requires 50-128 kbit/s, so you can see why this becomes a problem if the capacity in the networks needs to be increased by 5 to 10 times. It would mean buying 10 times more stuff from Alcatel, Ericsson and others, as well as more bandwidth, while there is no extra revenue from these calls. This is also the core reason why Operator One has chosen only to offer a service, where we feel comfortable with the “last mile” in the internet connection being carried over technical protocols that were actually designed to keep a stream of data alive without interruption.

Over the next 10 year period I think there will be a gradual shift to pay more for the data connection and less for the QoS-channel (regular phone call). Today an unlimited national call plan is around €40-70 per month, while unlimited (if available) around €10-50 depending on 3G/4G etc. I believe the price for the unlimited calling will be at most €10/month within 10 years from now, while “unlimited” mobile data will probably still vary from 10-€50/month, possibly reduced slightly. Regulatory authorities (Offcom, Bacom, PT, PTS etc) are also onto this, with various models pushing the termination price for mobile network access with increased data usage in the networks.

At the same time Joakim is very right about mobile service providers and that they should face the inevitable fact that they need to see themselves as ISP (Internet Service Providers) or a bit-pipe if you wish. They are fighting fiercely to avoid this. Unfortunately I see a trend in the opposite (and wrong) direction coming from the USA, with Apple, Google, Spotify, Facebook and Microsoft (MSN) becoming the proprietary controlled content bit-pipes that AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy once were. These old fashioned business models failed big-time when the web was introduced to the masses in the mid 90s. With the new dominants we run the risk of having even more restrictions, and reduced with what Apple decides to allow in their terminals, Google recommends what you watch on YouTube, Facebook advises who your friends should be , Spotify filter what you listen to, or Microsoft control who accesses each part of your device.



1. jardenberg kommenterar - 25 Jan, 2011 #jjk | Jardenberg Unedited - July 29, 2014

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