Don't fear voice over IP, operators told
Mobile VoIP is the future, according to handset giant Nokia – who today revealed a mobile VoIP and cellular hybrid handset and network offering to prove that very point.
Speaking today at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona, Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila said: "Voice has been [a] natural starting point for mobile services... Now internet voice is going mobile. Nokia has many different types of customers – now we want to help existing customers complement their mobile systems with VoIP."
Nokia revealed today it has been conducting a number of trials with operators, including BT, to test the viability of mobile VoIP using UMA (unlicensed mobile access) technology.
Nokia today launched the second handset to use UMA technology, the 6136, as well as a UMA networking product which can route voice calls over WLAN access points or cellular networks as appropriate. Both products will be available from the second quarter of this year.
Mobile VoIP has traditionally pitted the internet services companies, such as Skype, against the traditional operators which fear mobile VoIP will cannibalise their voice revenues, still the biggest earners for the network providers.
According to Nokia, mobile operators needn't fear the advent of mobile VoIP, claiming operators such as France Telecom and its subsidiary Orange with both fixed and mobile assets will be able to create new service plans, while pure play mobile operators can team with internet players to cut costs and network congestion. Ollila said: "There are both US and European operators that keenly want to be the first one [to launch a hybrid service]."
A number of web players have already announced tie-ups with operators, such as Google and Motorola, although such deals have tended to centre on search or content.
Ollila said: "We see internet companies as an important part of the future [of mobile VoIP]."
According to research company Analysys, converged handsets will be a tricky sell, with only 13 per cent of UK consumers saying they will buy a converged handset.