TECH TALK: 2006 Tech Trends: Free Voice

9. Voice calls are becoming free.

For telecom companies, it is their worst nightmare come true. Voice, which has sustained their business models for decades, is now becoming near-free on wired networks, thanks to the likes of Skype and others. Even in India, there is talk of creating a flat-rate for nationwide long distance calls, eliminating the earlier practice of distance-based pricing. It is only a matter of time before the Internet makes voice just another service on the digital infrastructure. The implications of free voice are many. For example, one could not just click on an ad to go a website but click to be connected to a person at the other end. Distance means little as loved ones can now communicate more often irrespective of where they are. For telecom companies, it means reinventing themselves as we are now seeing them do.

Gartner [via Internet News]: Cell phones and VoIP are also expected to continue their march forward. VoIP or cellular will be the only telephony in use for 30 percent of US homes by 2010. It only took more than 125 years but POTS (plain old telephony service) is now on the decline in the U.S., said Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner in a statement. The emergence of VoIP and the phenomenal rise of the mobile phone now represent the ‘dial tone’ for the future.

Russell Shaw: Consumer VoIP Will Be a Battle Between Built-Up IM and Bundled Broadband. The real competitive battle for VoIP consumers will be between services that were once hatched in the world of IM and are now building out full-fledged outbound and inbound VoIP, and the broadband Internet service providers that via attractive price packages, will bundle VoIP in with existing products. In such a scenario, the stand-alone VoIP providers lose.

Om Malik: There are some early indications of Voice-prices heading south. Lets start in the East. Hong Kong-based Hong Kong Broadband recently started selling a VoIP package that give users a Hong Kong 8-digit local number that allows them to make calls to any Hong Kong number – PSTN, Wireless and VoIP – as un-metered HK local calls. The service will cost about $5 a month. More recently, Netherlands-based ISP, CompuServe launched a five-euro plans which allows folks to make calls to Netherlands-based fixed line phones for free. (Well, if you add the 15 Euros you pay for their DSL connection, it is almost free.)As this trend unfolds, the harsh economic realities will force people to think different. I think this march to near zero will be the catalyst for what iotums Alec Saunders calls Voice 2.0; a new thinking so championed by Aswath, where voice and other IP communications come together in a new kind of ip-cosmic bliss.

Tomorrow: SaaS, Emerging Markets

TECH TALK 2006 Tech Trends+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.