Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Are You Gonna Do Now, Mr. Operator?

Google Voice is coming out of beta, and the blogosphere is buzzing. Unfortunately for mobile operators, this is yet another over-the-top competitor that threatens to take over.

GigaOm’s Om Malik doesn’t mince words when he states:

“The Google Voice app essentially reduces the cell phone carrier to a dumb pipe.”

Google recently announced it will soon make its voice service widely available to users in the U.S. Mobile versions will allow users to manage Google Voice connections accessing and playing back voice mails, sending and receiving SMS messages and reading message transcripts, as well as making local and long distance calls from mobile phones. The apps will be fully integrated with contacts on the phone, so you can call via Google Voice straight from your address book.

Here's a screenshot from GigaOm:

In a Fierce Wireless article, Mike Dano purports that "[Google Voice] should give entrenched wireless operators pause. They've based their businesses on providing voice calling to millions, and if they can't at least stay on top of the innovations in that segment, what hope do they have of remaining relevant in a mobile broadband future?”

While FMC services like UMA and femtocells don’t provide all the bells and whistles of Google Voice, these services can go a long way for operators when competing with over-the-top services. One of the key features continues to be discounted international calling, and operators can bill calls made over Wi-Fi and/or femtocells at a dramatically reduced cost per minute, attacking one of the most important consumer issues.

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