Over-the-top phone services: Mobile operators are trying both to repel and to imitate invaders
Posted in: Mobile & Wireless at 12/08/2012 14:03
The rise of the smartphone has been a mixed blessing for operators of mobile networks. People have been pleasingly eager to buy smartphones and to clock up data charges by playing games, watching videos and dawdling on social networks, as well as to make calls and send text messages. Yet smartphones have also opened the door to disruptive newcomers. Suppliers of "over the top" (OTT, or "value added") services have been pinching the network operators' customers by offering messaging and voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) calls via smartphone apps.
OTT services can take many forms, but voice and message apps have been the operators' biggest headache. Rather than pay for an SMS message or a phone call, people may use Skype (bought by Microsoft last year), WhatsApp (brainchild of two alumni of Yahoo!), Rebtel (a Swedish start-up), Viber, Voxer or some other upstart to send messages and videos or make VOIP calls for nothing. They may still incur data charges but with Wi-Fi access may avoid even those. Ovum, a consultancy, has estimated that OTT messaging cost operators $13.9 billion, or 9% of message revenue, last year.
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