Somebody Gets the Skype Mobile Picture Right.

Garrett Smith today issued a post "No Wonder Skype Dragged Their Feet" where he calls "… Skype’s decision to not dive head first into mobile VoIP a smart one". He blames the mobile carriers:

We as consumers can talk about mobile VoIP, how cool it is, how much we want it. Hardware manufacturers can make all of the devices they want. Last mile service providers can come up with the killer app. But until the people who own the network, the cellular carriers, [and] the WiFi network carriers, embrace mobile VoIP and the business economics behind it, we are going to continue to hear, see, and feel the mobile VoIP “ban”.

Based on my (largely North American) experience we have a long road to hoe before we see mobile VoIP take hold. Certainly over 2.xG wireless networks, latency issues work against it; and 3G networks will only be viable when both the economics are right and, as Garrett states, the carriers commit. (At the moment 500MB per month of data plan on Rogers would cost me $1,600 per month.)

The most immediate opportunity should lie with WiFi networks where I have had good "call quality" success with calls placed via Truphone and, more recently, Fring. But, as of today,. the major Canadian HotSpot network (in Starbucks, other popular coffee shop and restaurant chains, airports, etc.) cost $0.15 per minute; they have a couple of .(600 min., 90 min) monthly subscription plans at $.04-$.05 per minute with a $0.10 per minute overage charge. However, they:

  • are very limited geographically
  • do not recognize the login window through the browser on my Nokia N-series phones; they do work with the N800 Internet Tablet since it uses the (Linux-based) Opera browser.

I have never been able to get the local Toronto "Muni" WiFi network (Toronto Hydro Telecom) to work beyond getting a SSID on any of these devices. So, in addition to the Canadian Hotspot choices above, I am left with free WiFi on my home network or at free WiFi locations, including some commercial establishments (hotels, a few restaurants and "neighborhood" coffee shops), guest access at businesses and friends’ homes.

I made my first VoIP call in early 1996 while working at Quarterdeck where we had developed a VoIP product. It has taken over ten years to build and integrate landline VoIP into an infrastructure that is acceptable to consumers and businesses. A warning to VC’s seeing mobile VoIP business plans: the infrastructure is just not there yet for major mobile VoIP market penetration, neither technologically nor economically.

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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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