Byline article - Rebtel CEO on why Mobile Operators’ Voice is Slowly Fading AwayAug 20, 2012 05:58 EDT
In just a couple of years VoIP has gone from a niche industry to a mainstream one. Increasingly price-savvy customers have made the most of VoIP services such as Skype, Viber and Rebtel to not only keep in touch with friends and family, but also to conduct their business. However, the savings made by users has meant a corresponding drop in income for mobile operators: a consequence that naturally doesn’t sit well with them.
OPERATORS HIT BACK
A recent report from Teleco 2.0 suggests that within three years over 20% of voice and 40% of messaging revenue will vanish entirely. For the most part operators in Europe are blocking, throttling or charging customers for using VoIP services as they desperately try to claw back some revenue and limit usage of (over the top) OTT services. For example, Swedish operator TeliaSonera has just announced a scheme to start charging mobile phone users for using VoIP services, building on pricing models they are already using in Spain.
Operators stifling growth of an OTT service appears to be happening globally. In South Korea last month operators took radical and prompt action against a VoIP service they saw as a threat. KakaoTalk, an OTT provider, launched a international calling VoIP service that was such a success that after just three days 20m calls were being made daily.
The impact on mobile voice usage was so significant that the country’s two major telecom operators took immediate steps to protect their voice revenue stream. Worryingly, the Korean Communications Commission backed the actions of the operators and ruled that not only can operators limit VoIP services, they can charge for them. It seems consumer choice isn’t a top priority.
THREAT OF EUROPEAN REGULATION LOOMS
It isn’t all doom and gloom for VoIP companies and their users, however, particularly in Europe. Some high-profile parties have noticed and agreed it is time to take action. In June, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) published the findings of its investigation into net neutrality in Europe. A section of the report considered how mobile operators and internet service providers (ISPs) often restricted access to OTT services. The report found there was enough evidence of industry problems to warrant ‘strong and targeted action to safeguard consumers’.
Neelie Kroes, EU Digital Agenda Commissioner, said: "Are customers empowered to choose well? Do they realise what they are signing up for? I didn't read all the pages in my mobile contract and I bet you didn't either. I believe we need more transparent information."
It appears Neelie’s comments were indeed representative of UK consumers as Rebtel’s independent research discovered 71% of users felt their operators had not communicated clearly to them what or how it was blocking or limiting access of VoIP services.
CONSUMERS NEED THE FACTS
It’s clear that some of the traditional revenue streams of operators, such as charging for voice and texting, are in decline and the spiral is likely to continue for some time yet. It’s vital, however, that consumers have a clear understanding of what OTT services they can use, which ones are restricted and how much those services cost. The need for clarity and transparency between operators and users is obvious and pressing. Leaving customers in the dark may work in the short term, but it’s a risky game for operators to play that’s unlikely to pay off.
The article was originally published at Strategy Eye Digital Media