Along with folks from BT and Vodafone at CAPACITY Europe last week, I participated in a panel discussion titled “Talk About Talking – Alternatives Beyond the Traditional Voice Call”. The purpose of this panel was to discuss the state to the voice industry and its prospects for growth, and retention of subscribers and minutes in today’s changing communications environment.
We focused on a few key areas during the discussion:
Drivers of growth and retention for voice services in the coming year:
All of us panelist thought growth would be difficult in the developed world. Although most of us on the panel saw an opportunity to grow minutes in the developing regions of the world as more mobile phones are being sold there and voice usage is beginning to grow, in the developed world, the minutes are dropping, margins are shrinking, and OTT is heavily impacting traditional voice minutes. So our discussion regarding the developed world really turned to retention. Here are some strategies operators are using to retain subscribers:
- Contextual communications – taking a page from the enterprise contact center space of services delivered and available in context of the customer experience – services such as Do Not Disturb while driving etc.
- Embracing WebRTC — developing services such as Orange’s Libon service, and including them in mobile apps. Then, figuring out how to monetize that application. Operators are attempting to figure out how to monetize WebRTC in the context of a mobile application.
- Operators are coming to terms with price models for roaming—many subscribers who roam immediately look to use OTT voice apps or Wi-Fi when roaming…..better to get some revenue than none….
- New value added services (VAS):
- Visual voicemail
- Video enriched messaging
- SMS Messaging
- Call completion (ring back)
- Biometric security
- Intelligent assistants
Where are operators investing now, in terms of technology, to drive a better user experience?
I commented that our customers are looking at virtualized solutions such as NFV and VoLTE on which to build new profitable applications. Additionally, with a slightly longer horizon, we can see other operators looking at 5G – and all that it brings. Look at Verizon’s recent announcement: The nation's largest wireless carrier will begin field trials of so-called fifth-generation, or 5G, technology within the next 12 months. Verizon expects "some level of commercial deployment" to begin by 2017. That's far earlier than the time frame of 2020 that many in the industry have pegged for the initial adoption of 5G technology.
And again, operators are looking for contextual services that will offer their subscribers a personalized experience.
The progressive carriers are evaluating many applications – on one hand we see them looking to deploy new and fresh applications to generate incremental revenues, and on other hand, we hear of carriers who won’t even consider an application that they don’t see generating at least $1 billion in revenue in the first year or two.
Would the ability to deliver voice QOS and handoff over Wi-Fi be a game changer? What would it mean for the industry?
I’m not sure it would be a game changer. Subscribers look to Wi-Fi due to high roaming charges – at best it’s a retention strategy. However, it’s not necessarily a technology or QOS issue, but rather commercial and regulatory issues. With impending changes in European roaming charges, for voice and SMS, subscribers might be tempered in their thinking about Wi-Fi as a voice alternative.
Overall, it was a lively discussion and lots to think about as we go forward. Do you agree with what the panellists said in these discussions? Share your thoughts by tweeting us @Dialogic.