Study: Carriers Warming to Mobile VoIP

The one-time barrier between cellular carriers and Internet voice providers appears to be coming down, according to new research. The key: Carriers need VoIP to cash in on all those data dollars promised by WiMAX and LTE.

“Sooner or later, mobile operators will be forced to deploy their own VoIP services, since next-generation networks such as Long Term Evolution and WiMax are all-IP and don’t support circuit voice,” explained John Blau, a German-based research associate with Unstrung Insider.

Indeed, half of mobile calls by 2019 will be over all-IP networks, research suggested in May of this year.

Blau’s report entitled “Mobile VoIP: A Disruptive Service Goes Mainstream” predicts banning VoIP from carrier networks “will not be sustainable.” One example: T-Mobile allows Skype’s Web-based VoIP on handsets. AT&T permits limited VoIP on iPhones as long as calls remain on Wi-Fi networks.

The need for cellular networks to expand to other services, including data, may be what overcomes carriers’ traditional vision of VoIP as a voice competitor.

“Mobile VoIP is no longer just a cheap telephone call,” Blau said. Instead, mobile VoIP’s attraction for carriers is integration with other systems and spurring the adoption of new services.

Blau believes developing flash-based, peer-to-peer VoIP without software “could be a game-changer.” A number of flash-based mobile VoIP services are beginning to appear, including Skype lite and minifring—both of which use Java to eliminate downloads.

This latest report is buttressed by earlier research indicating carriers may need VoIP to survive. In the past, carriers have searched for the perfect ‘killer app’ to survive dwindling traditional voice usage. They’ve tried music and video, but the real answer may be all of the above and more.

“Choice is now the killer app,” said Paul Naphtali, vice president at jajah, a developer that earlier this year commissioned research finding carriers are seeking an answer to Apple’s App Store phenomenon.

But cell carriers’ longstanding distrust of VoIP is not easy to shake. Over the weekend, AT&T confirmed to the FCC that it and Apple have agreed not to allow a VoIP app on the iPhone that uses the carrier’s network.

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