Jon Arnold: Is VoIP Dead?

TMCNet Editor Michael Dinan has reported on Jonathan Christensen’s keynote two weeks ago at TMCNet’s IT Expo in Los Angeles. While many of us in the Skype world have heard pieces of this story previously, Jonathan was addressing an audience of enterprise and business telephony professionals who are dealing with VoIP implementation issues.. Jonathan’s basic thesis was that VoIP has become a commodity feature but the innovation starts by going beyond low cost voice conversations:

Now, Christensen said, are emerging three pillars of a generation “beyond VoIP.”

The first pillar, he said, includes different facets, including the fact that – unlike analog telephone conversations – services such as Skype are marked by an “explicit handshake model,” or agreed relationship, where both or all parties have agreed to communicate (a nice idea although this presidential election year will feature no robocalls, courtesy of Congress). Secondly, he said, there’s a new band of audio, including wideband audio, improving communications, in part, by allowing participants to distinguish among different speakers. Finally, higher resolution video makes video conferencing such as that offered by Skype, more real.

Three pillars that set the bar for fully equipped IP-based conversation services from the performance aspect.

Yesterday analyst Jon Arnold, who also attended the conference, wrote in his weekly Service Provider Views column: Is VoIP Dead?

Skype has an important message to deliver, not just for the consumer market, but for the business world too. It’s really a matter of how far ahead you’re prepared to look. While most service providers are just catching up to the realities and potential of VoIP, pioneers like Skype are way past that, and for them, VoIP is so old, it’s dead for them.

He goes on to point out:

The vision Jonathan paints, of course, is based in the world of IP, not TDM. VoIP can readily replicate the PSTN feature set today, but not much more. With end-to-end IP, not only can VoIP deliver an added layer of new services, and integrate seamlessly with Web services, but it can also deliver superior voice quality to what we’re experiencing today. Under these conditions, VoIP is actually a better product than TDM, and that’s where things get interesting. VoIP is still widely perceived as an inferior service, which explains why it is primarily sold on the basis of price rather than quality. Think of the possibilities for service providers when VoIP could actually be marketed as a premium service, and one that does not have to be sold as a way to lower your long-distance costs.

Well, by the time the incumbent telcos come around, Skype will be long past them. Skype has built up a sprawling international customer base that has embraced a communications platform that goes well beyond VoIP. PC-based VoIP and IM have been the backbone of their success, but Jonathan sees a richer experience emerging, and one that is much more than everyday VoIP. In the keynote, he talked about three pillars that will support this new mode of communications – presence, wideband audio and high resolution video.

And, after discussing the three pillars mentioned above, concludes:

Taking all of this into account, one of Christensen’s key messages was that innovation is happening today at the network edge, not the core. Furthermore, it is not coming from the telcos, but from the disrupters from outside the voice world, such as Skype, Google and the whole Open Source movement. Telecom, as we know it, is now software, and rapidly moving into the cloud and the world of Web 2.0. In this environment, voice becomes another data application, and telcos will no longer be able to build their business around it. This means walled gardens cannot last – and this includes Skype, by the way – and the end user will ultimately define what the optimal experience is, as well as where they choose to get it from.

This is the world Skype is building its future around, and to the extent that VoIP is offered as a standalone service, it will not have much of a future here. Service providers are certainly welcome to try doing so, but in my books, the voice of tomorrow will look a lot more like what Skype is talking about today. What does it look like to you?

It’s not about VoIP; it’s about the potential of multi-modal IP-based conversations. Read Michael’s and Jon’s complete posts for more insight.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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