Kineto Wireless has introduced a mobile VoIP application designed specifically to be deployed and managed by mobile operators. The app, which leverages the operator’s existing voice network infrastructure, is designed to run on iPhone, Android, Symbian, and Windows Mobile devices.
Steve Shaw, Kineto’s vice president of corporate marketing, says the offering is designed specifically to compete with popular mobile VoIP services like Skype. “What we’re doing is creating a downloadable VoIP client application, akin to what a user would download if they were to download Skype onto their iPhone,” he says.
The point, Shaw says, is that mobile operators are finally starting to realize that they need to offer an alternative mobile VoIP solution to their customers. “And so what our application really does is take the mobile operator’s existing mobile services and deliver them like an application that can be downloaded onto your iPhone or Android phone—or, really, any smartphone with Wi-Fi,” he says.
While products like Skype, Fring and Nimbuzz are all about bypassing the mobile operator, Shaw says, Kineto’s offering can help turn the tide. “If you’re a mobile operator, there are 100 solutions that are all about bypassing you, and there’s nothing that’s for you… so what we’re trying to say is, for those operators out there who want to come up with their own Wi-Fi calling service, now we’re offering you the tools to go ahead and do that,” he says.
And Shaw says operators can easily offer additional benefits like free in-network calling, routing missed VoIP calls to a user’s mobile voicemail, or showing the caller ID of a user’s mobile number even when the call has been placed over VoIP. “The mobile operator can use their clout in the marketplace to make a pretty interesting service,” he says.
Ultimately, Shaw says, every aspect of the company’s mobile VoIP application can be customized to meet a given operator’s needs. “Kineto itself is not in the applications game, so what we’ve put together is fairly rudimentary,” he says. “What we would really be looking for is to sit down with a telecom partner and say, ‘Okay, what are the features, what are the capabilities that you really want… to entice consumers to go ahead and take this?’ ”
That feature list, Shaw says, doesn’t need to be particularly extensive. Kineto recently commissioned a YouGov survey, which found that the primary reason for downloading a mobile VoIP app was for making cheap international calls. “It wasn’t presence, it wasn’t instant messaging, it wasn’t some of the other things that you might think of,” he says. “If people take the time to start this client on their phone, they’re doing it because they want to call someone somewhere else in the world.”
And so, Shaw says, a mobile operator that’s willing to offer cheap international calls over VoIP might be able to persuade subscribers to use Kineto’s application on their mobile phone instead of Skype. “This is going to cause them to bite the bullet and say, ‘Normally, I charge a buck a minute to call Germany, but if you’re using my Wi-Fi calling service, maybe it’s only 20 cents a minute,” he says. “Is it better to collect 20 cents a minute versus zero cents a minute when somebody chooses to use Skype instead? We think so.”
The next step, Shaw says, is for carriers to consider additional possibilities for the solution—particularly in terms of attracting users who might not even be coming to the carrier for voice calling at all. “What’s even more interesting is the fact that this could be downloaded onto an iPod Touch, or this could be bundled in with the netbook that you buy from them that has the embedded 3G module—this could just be an icon on the desktop… and you’d see your mobile operator’s own voice service sitting there,” he says.
The company is currently offering trials of the solution to qualified mobile operators, though Shaw says any progress toward deployment will inevitably be gradual. “It’ll take them months before they figure out if they want to do something, and if so, what they want to do,” he says. “But it seems like the timing’s right. The analysts we talk to say they’re getting a lot of calls from mobile operators saying, ‘Just within the last year, I’ve really started to feel the pinch from mobile VoIP providers, and I’m starting to see the impact in my subscriber base’… so I think the timing is perfect for this type of offering.”