The attitude of telecommunication providers to the various VoIP services that are available has been quite inconsistent. On the one hand we have carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint which are actively trying to embrace new technologies. Sprint for example has tied up with Google voice and allows its customers to port their numbers over. T-Mobile has come out with its own offering called Bobsled which allows users to make VoIP calls. On the other side of the scale we have companies like Verizon and AT&T who’re market leaders and are very keen to maintain their position. These companies view VoIP as a threat. It may not be so bad in the United States but in the European Union, ISPs routinely interfere with VoIP traffic by either blocking it or throttling it. Of course, the rate of VoIP adoption in the EU is far higher than what it is in the US. That may well be the reason why we haven’t seen such a drastic response here yet.
The telecommunication companies can make use of segmenting tactics to ensure that they don’t lose their customers to competing VoIP services. This is a basic marketing strategy. It leverages the fact that VoIP is slightly more difficult to set up and consumers don’t fully have it in their consciousness yet. As matters stand right now, a person has to actively seek out a VoIP solution, configure their systems to work with it and only then use it. It’s not easily available at such. If the telecom companies offer their own VoIP solutions to compete with those from third parties, they could perhaps retain the tech savvy and cost-conscious customers even if they pay a lower rate.
Compare this with the concept of coupons or calling cards. Cost-conscious customers will be the ones to take the time and effort to cut coupons out and redeem them at the store. Most customers are either unaware or are not cost-conscious enough to do this. It’s the best of both worlds and the market segments itself automatically. Just as telecom companies issued their own calling cards to compete with those offered by third parties, they need to get on the bandwagon and integrate their own VoIP offerings into their services.
Just a month or so ago we saw indications from the telecom industry that they might allow applications using the Internet to pay for the bandwidth they consume. This is all backwards. Customers already pay a fee for connecting to the Internet and asking for payments from another source for the same service is simply ridiculous. This is similar to carriers asking services like Google to pay for the bandwidth that users consume when accessing their products. We don’t know where this is going to go. What is certain is that SIP VoIP adoption will continue to increase and the shift away from the traditional POTS system has already started. How will the US telecom companies respond?