I wrote many blog posts about mobile VoIP and I tried most of the mobile VoIP services available for my handsets (Nokia N-series). That being said, I have to say that all of them are definitely bringing innovation to the mobile market, while mobile operators start watching them carefully as a potential threat.
One of the trends I’m observing is how those services are leveraging their existing infrastructure, investments and developments by offering a white label solution to big companies which want to up-sell new innovative services to their huge potential user base. It’s nothing more than what some mobile carriers are already doing worldwide with the so called MVNOs, but with “VoIP” and “new services” in the middle.
Look at Rebtel with EasyMobile (but I know for sure there is more coming out soon) or FreshTel with Tesco. FreshTel, for example, is a new player operating in the Australian market that I knew during the VoIP World 2008 in Dubai since I was sitting at the same rountable with Rhonda O’Donnell, their CEO. They signed a big deal with Tesco, a Wal-Mart competitor, to provide their customers with a mobile VoIP solution. How long will it take for WalMart or similar groups to look for similar solutions to be sold to their huge audience?
I’m pretty sure there is more coming out from players like, for example, the no-boundaries mobile operator Cubic Telecom and I expect to see something similar coming from other players like Truphone or Fring. The point here is to bring user experience at its best. Customers of big shopping groups like Wal-Mart are mostly “normal” people who look for something cheap and easy to use, without having to struggle with software installation or handset’s configuration.
In this perspective a solution by MaxRoam, Rebtel or Sim4Travel (by Truphone) would fit better with that audience and are more likely to succeed than other services which are more complex for an average user. Most people are not early adopters of new technologies so all the mobile VoIP companies that want to jump into that business through those channels must keep this aspect well in mind.
Besides, I stated many times and I firmly believe that the #1 concern for any mobile VoIP player must be the usability and the overall user experience delivered by their services. They can offer the cheapest rate ever, but It becomes useless if a “normal” person needs to attend a software engineering class to install their software or needs to buy a $500 phone to use it (mmm… how many “normal” people have a Wifi access at home?).
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