Skype, Truphone and a host of other mobile VoIP providers have been giving away their wares for a few years now. Skype, arguably the most well known of these, got the mobile bug a couple of years ago.
Fring and Nimbuzz Skype software came to the fore by making use of the new flat rate data plans and free home and bar WiFi.
With presence and social networking integrated into these ever improving applications, consumers can now decide how they want to contact their friends using the cheapest method possible.
So would you rather pay 10p for an SMS or almost nothing for a Skype or Facebook chat or a twitter DM? Mobile is suddenly becoming a lot cheaper and a lot more fun, but the networks hate it.
Nokia’s N97 will become the first of their handsets with an inbuilt Skype client, so O2 and Orange are throwing a hissy fit stamping their feet and telling all those who will listen that Nokia’s latest toy will not be part of their play box.
Pointless histrionics as buyers will just move to a network that does carry it. In the end O2 & Orange will just have to admit defeat as they did with the churlish exercise of removing the VoIP communication stacks from earlier Nokia handsets.
The networks will also suffer from the credit crunch friendly Microsoft push email, available for free and now on all Nokia’s Symbian handsets. Why pay £20 or more a month for something you can have for nothing.
Sure you can do more with a BlackBerry, but is it worth the extra £240 a year, probably not. So where does that lead the mobile networks at the end of 2009? Declining revenue, that’s where.
With handsets from all manufacturers increasingly shipping with social networking inbuilt replacing SMS, ActiveSync replacing BlackBerry, Skype replacing voice revenue.
Data costs are already low and it would be very brave of a network to increase charges or re-impose network blocks on VoIP calls.
Perhaps the networks should start competing again on coverage and quality of service and let the user decide how they want to communicate.