Is mobile VoIP the next king?

Posted on April 30, 2014 by Andrea Mocherman

Here’s the truth. A lot of the time, your voice is a robot. We’ve all been talking in zeros and ones for at least a decade now. No matter what kind of connection you think you’re talking on, at some point along the chain your conversations are traveling over one digital realm or another.


VoIP is becoming less of of an exception and more of a norm as end users and carriers alike look for ways to condense costs. A decade ago VoIP was a fearful world conjuring thoughts of garbled audio and dropped connections. Now the technology has evolved to the point of being indistinguishable from …whatever it was people used before VoIP. As much as some would prefer you believe otherwise, voice data is just data. In the world of mobile connections, that fact can provide convenience and efficiency by reducing the cost (and number) of your mobile connections. Paying for a separate voice stream is redundant and costly, especially because we are using so gosh darn much data.

The rise of the datavores.

We’re consuming more data through mobile devices. A study by Ericsson shows a 2000% increase in mobile data traffic over the last four years, noting that the world saw 109 million new mobile subscriptions added in Q4, 2013 (bringing the total to 6.7 billion).

Cisco dug deeper into data usage and growth projections in the Global Mobile
Data Traffic Forecast
. The report maps out our transition to an even more data-centric society, stating that by 2018, the average smartphone will consume 2.7GB of data each month, compared to just 529MB in 2013. The increasing importance of data connections is most evident in the diminishing influence of the top data users. More people are using more data. Last year, the top 1% of data users download 10% of the data consumed. In 2010, the same group gobbled up 52% of the zeros and ones.

Access is the catalyst.

The way we talk is following the footsteps of the dinosaurs. Pretty soon traditional voice traffic will be the subject of museum exhibits mocked by bus loads of tech wearing/implanted school children. But it’s not the flight path of a space rock that’s posing a threat, it’s smartphones.

In this post for Midsize Insider, Daniel Cawrey heralds the rise of mobile VoIP (mVoIP) and attributes it to the proliferation of a new kind of infrastructure. He says that just as VoIP was made possible by the spread of reliable broadband connections, mVoIP follows the spread of the smartphone which is positioned to make even VoIP-based phones obsolete.

Modern mobile phones place more data crunching power in the palm of your hand than was contained the spaceships that carried men to the moon.

Thanks to innovations that multiplied line capacity by a factor of 100, it’s easy to transmit boatloads of data, and the going rate for access to all that information is closer in value to the dust in the bottom of your penny jar than what you’d pay for voice traffic.

Change is now.

Cawrey says mVoIP has the potential to save businesses by cutting out minutes and long distance charges, while challenging telcos to become data brokers. And carriers are seeing it. In this post on Gigaom, Kevin Fitchard highlighted Comcast’s attempt to placate regulators into approving its merger with Time-Warner by creating a “wifi first” network, the first of its kind.

More is coming.

Increasingly, end users are consolidating technology by bringing more functions into fewer devices. It’s the mobile devices that are winning that war, thanks, in part, to the BYOD movement. Half a billion mobile devices were added to the global network in 2013. And that’s not just phones. Around the world there are 92 million tablets, and 149 million laptops connected to the mobile network.

Softphones are retiring desk phones. The apps that are making mVoIP possible are still pioneers setting the stage for the big hitters yet to come. Features are often limited and reliability isn’t what it can be. But Cawrey says those problems existed in early VoIP too, only to be smoothed out over time.

Beware and be patient.

When it comes to predicting a time frame for this shift, Cawrey sites this InformationWeek post from E. Kelly Fitzsimmons that says Homo Sapiens Sapiens’ natural aversion to change will buy traditional voice traffic more time. Although, Fitzsimmons says, make no mistake, mVoIP “will demolish what remains of telco voice revenues.” Referencing a Mobile VoIP report from Juniper Research that projects a $5 Billion loss for traditional voice revenue by 2015, Fitzsimmons predicts the only way for voice providers to avoid fossilization is to monetize mVoIP by offering desirable features and service guarantees.

So be warned. Traditional voice traffic may be comfortable, but its days are numbered. The pace of technological change is accelerating daily. Pew Research says 61% of cellphones in the US are smartphones. The switch away from paying for minutes offers an attractive cost savings, and as features like video chat and conferencing improve, the incentive will only grow more appealing. Finding ways to innovate with mobile VoIP now is one sure path to a prosperous future ahead of the curve.