Leader: What are broadband and mobile good for?

Maybe not quality voice - but plenty of other things...
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Maybe not quality voice - but plenty of other things...

It seems there will always be times when speaking on a mobile phone is fraught with cries of "You're breaking up..." Even with advances, most notably brought around 10 years ago with digital infrastructure and then other tweaks, connections can be less than perfect.

Do we care? Yes, occasionally. However, most of the time we realise the value of a mobile phone is in something very obvious - its mobility. That may change somewhat. We may end up valuing its usefulness as a payment device, a locator, a remote control for various functions and many other applications.

But our bet is that mobility will still head the list for some time to come.

This all means that research out today pointing to the shortcomings of voice calls over mobiles is a little redundant. Yes, we'd like the quality to be crystal clear every time. (And doubtless we'll hear from network operators who say that it is, if only we'd try them.) But it's not essential.

Similarly, when people say voice over IP (VoIP) can be worse than traditional circuit-switched calling they often fail consider the plus points - cheapness and integration with other applications. (And VoIP is often indistinguishable from other calls anyhow now.)

You see, horses for courses - and quality isn't always paramount.

Of course one area that could see a great explosion of VoIP calling is broadband. News today that BT is bundling access with wireless - it calls it BT Broadband Traveller - could give this trend a little more impetus.

A laptop user with a 'soft phone' - a headset and the necessary software - could easily conduct voice calls when at home or at a number of hotspots now. And the price? Practically nothing.

BT isn't a great fan of losing its voice revenues and mobile operators would rather we use their cellular connections when sitting at a Wi-Fi enabled café than a laptop. But then that won't be a huge concern.

Another prediction: voice calls - over fixed lines and mobiles - will stay healthy for some time. Even though minutes will continue to fall, revenue from broadband and related services will take up the slack for telcos. For mobile operators, read mobile data and related services.

The substitution will take time but it is happening.

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