Messaging apps, VoIP already eating into carrier revenues, study finds

A new breed of messaging services and mobile Voice over IP clients like Skype are already eating into carrier revenues according to a new study. Commissioned by mobile infrastructure solutions provider Mavenir Systems, interviews with 31 mobile network operators around the world found that one-third of carriers are already seeing voice traffic and SMS revenue decline as a result of the increased popularity of third-party solutions. Read on for more.

For years, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger service has been one of the top features consumers and enterprise users loved about BlackBerry devices. It took much longer than some expected, but other vendors and third-party developers have finally come out in full force with competing services that provide SMS-like messaging over data networks at little or not cost to the user. Among those mentioned in this study are Apple’s new iMessage service, which allows iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users to chat with other iOS users for free, and WhatsApp, a third-party cross-platform service that works on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Symbian smartphones.

Mobile VoIP clients like Skype are also becoming increasingly popular. These third-party solutions offer free voice and video calling between account holders, often accompanied by deep discounts on international calling. Some solutions even provide unlimited domestic calling to landlines and cell phones for free.

The study, which was carried out on behalf of Mavenir by mobile(SQUARED), found that a third of operators believe operator traffic from messaging, voice and video calling will decline between 11% and 20% over the next 5-10 years. Another 20% of operators expect even steeper declines in the 31% to 40% range.

“The findings confirm what we have found in discussions with the mobile industry,” Mavenir VP Shubh Agarwal said in a statement. “This is one of the primary reasons the industry is currently moving towards an all-IP converged core network accelerated by the deployment of LTE technology. By allowing users to place high definition voice and video calls, chat, share content, and discover new services as part of a globally connected framework, operators can retain and even grow their share of customer communication spend.”

“The mobile landscape is changing as users embrace messaging of all kinds that enable them to seamlessly message a multitude of devices,” mobile(SQUARED) analyst Gavin Patterson added. “This study confirms that lucrative messaging revenues are already impacted and operators are assessing ways to deliver core-network services in the all-IP environment. Rich Communication Ecosystem (RCE) applications are one example of how mobile operators can overcome the hurdles they face.”

42% of wireless operators say that they will combat this new trend by rolling out IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)-based services to offer things like Voice over LTE and data-facilitated messaging services. “By offering embedded or downloadable clients tied to a user’s phone number, auto service discoverability, group chat, enhanced calling for video and file sharing as a global service, operators can deliver value to their subscribers,” Manevir noted in its report.

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