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Mobile VoIP on major growth curve

Analyst firm Disruptive Analysis is prediction big things for VoIP over 3G, with the number of VoIPo3G users predicted to grow from virtually zero in 2007 to over 250 million within five years.

The anticipated explosion in VoIP over 3G usage would rapidly eclipse voice over wifi, including FMC and dual mode cellular phones, to become the preferred method of communication.

And perhaps more surprisingly, given the historical climate, the analyst believes that it will be the operators themselves which will be mainly responsible for the push towards VoIP being carried over cellular networks.

Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis, reckons VoIPo3G is an attractive proposition for carriers because it enables them to fit more phone calls into their scarce spectrum allocations, reduces operating expenses by combining fixed and mobile core networks, and allows for the launch of new services like push to talk and voice-integrated mashups.

VoIPo3G also fits well with the hot topic du jour, femtocells, as well as future generations of wireless technology such as 3GPP LTE, UMB and WiMAX, which are all IP platforms. Indeed, unless mobile operators continue to run separate voice networks in parallel, they will inevitably transition to VoIP at some point.

But Bubley argues that because these new radio technologies are three to five years away from mainstream deployment, what happens in the meantime will provide the major disruption to operator business models.

Already, some independent VoIP players are exploiting the fact that today’s 3G networks can support VoIP. But at the same time, there is an increasing trend of carriers marketing 3G modems for PCs in direct competition with home broadband, and these are often packaged with carrier-branded VoIP applications.

Bubley believes that by 2012, most VoIPo3G users will be using mobile carriers’ own standards-based VoIP capabilities over 3G+ networks. However, a significant minority of about 60 million will be using independent offerings, many actually operated in partnership with carriers or retailers.

“3G networks are increasingly capable of supporting VoIP, for both traditional mobile operators and independent internet-based VoIP challengers. But while CDMA operators will benefit from VoIP being ‘designed-in’ to their newest networks, 3GPP/HSPA operators will have to wait for several years – a window of opportunity which will be exploited by the ‘over the top’ players. Rather than competing head-on, partnership models have the potential to create win-win propositions,” said Bubley.

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