Last year, Alan Masarek made news as he left Google to become Vonage’s new CEO.
American mobile VoIP users, take heed, as American mobile network operators (also losing revenue) will surely be following this new development very closely: In Sweden, telco giant Telia has announced its intent to charge mobile customers for mobile VoIP voice and video services.
Starting later this year, the Scandinavian carrier will include mobile VoIP phone service as a plan feature for new customers, grandfathering in existing customers. New customers who choose not to pay for access to VoIP service by mobile VoIP providers such as Skype, Viber, and others will find they will not be able to use the VoIP services at all. "We need to be able to get paid for our various services no matter what," Telia maintains.
Mobile VoIP users around the world are increasingly seeing their access to free and low-cost services under attack. With mobile VoIP use on the rise, carriers are in the beginning stages of panic over their shrinking profit margins — and greater losses are on the horizon: Experts predict that mobile VoIP phone service use will reach $29.5 billion by 2015 (an increase of more than 4700% over the $605 million in 2008).
In an effort to combat the loss of revenue created by users bypassing cell plan minutes and texting fees through mobile VoIP phone service, European mobile network operators (MNOs) have gone on the offensive. The Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) states that European MNOs routinely block VoIP traffic on cellular networks using a combination of deep packet inspection (DPI) and the interpretation of contract terms.
In England, the Internet Telephony Service Provider's Association (ITSPA) reports that carriers Orange UK, Vodafone, and T-Mobile regularly inhibit their customers' access to mobile VoIP phone service.
European mobile VoIP providers aren't taking the blocking sitting down, or with the customary British stiff upper lip. In the name of 'net neutrality,' they're fighting for their own slice of the revenue pie. "Such anti-competitive practices clearly illustrate the reasoning behind calls to enforce net neutrality," says UK ISP Entanet.
British regulators have already tipped their hand as to which side of the battle they'll come down on: Ofcom has declared that MNOs that restrict VoIP calls are obstructing innovation, noting, "There is also a concern that service innovation would be hindered if providers of Internet access blocked services, or applied traffic management in a manner that discriminated against competing providers."
Industry watchers expect American carriers to monitor the brewing battle over mobile VoIP access in Europe, and take their cue from whatever successes are achieved there.