Market evolution in the communications space in the last year has been dynamic at the very least and in anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO West event in Austin, TX, TMCnet’s Rich Tehrani wanted to get the inside scoop from key players. He spoke with Voxbone’s CEO, Rod Ullens to get his take on the industry and market evolution. Ullens pointed to the broad adoption of VoIP as a “carrier-grade” technology as the most important evolution. As for the next disruptive force in technology, he anticipates that mobile VoIP will revolutionize mobile telecommunications.
Ullens also noted that cloud computing will not influence his company’s internal way of working as Voxbone services are already offered in the cloud, yet the adoption of cloud computing by enterprises will impact their business in a positive way. The most common request from customers is for mobile phone numbers from mobile VoIP service providers. As for customized mobile devices, Ullens doesn’t believe in them. As for the communication mix on devices in the future, Ullens believes all types will continue to co-exist. When asked about the anticipated success of Google+, Ullens could see potential for both success and failure.
In meeting the need for increased mobility, Ullens noted this is a key driver for Voxbone business. To meet the growing need, the company offers phone numbers, SIP and IP. In the mobile operating system war, Ullens believes iPhone and Android will dominate in the residential market, and RIM and Microsoft will penetrate the SME space. He doesn’t believe HTML5 will be the anticipated game changer and at ITEXPO West, Ullens is looking forward to meeting interesting new companies that later become good customers. He also believes that every communications service provider should come and visit the Voxbone booth at the show as it is bigger and strong than last year.
Their entire conversation follows:
1. How has your market evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those changes?
The most important evolution in the voice communications market in the last five years is the broad adoption of VoIP as a “carrier-grade” technology, enabling voice services at the best possible price/quality ratio. Until 2005, VoIP was considered low-quality and free. Today it is seen as equal quality at low cost. Skype's number of active users, paying users and number of international minutes have grown spectacularly year-on-year since its inception in 2003: 170 million active users in 2010 – of whom 8.1 million are paying users – generating a volume of international voice minutes equivalent to 24.7 percent of the total number of international minutes on the PSTN. Also, Google Voice, Jajah and Rebtel gained ground and have become well-established telephony service providers. In the carrier market, sending minutes to the other side of the world no longer requires expensive leased lines or complex least-cost-routing management, as a new generation of service providers, including Voxbone, are offering international call services of similar quality at a fraction of the cost. It may seem that VoIP is well on its way to replace all legacy voice technology, but the (re)volution is yet to begin in a couple of domains: mobile telephony and enterprise cloud communications.
2. What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?
Mobile VoIP is going to revolutionize mobile telecommunications in the next two to five years. Traditional mobile voice and messaging services are still relatively expensive. On the other hand, mobile data, which has been sold at a fairly low price by mobile network operators desperately searching for new revenue streams, is relatively cheap. The increase in the power, openness and user-friendliness of smartphones the last few years, combined with better coverage of Wi-Fi and mobile data networks at a lower cost, make VoIP on mobile phones a very attractive technology. Mobile networks operators who find themselves in a situation where they see high-margin voice and text services being replaced by low-margin mobile data services will have to re-invent themselves in the next couple of years. For Voxbone, this is a positive evolution. Voxbone sells local phone numbers from 50 countries on its global VoIP backbone. Phone numbers are the only standardized identifier for voice and SMS communications, in legacy as well as future communication networks. So if mobile VoIP service providers would like to make their services interoperable with legacy telephony networks and other VoIP networks, they need phone numbers. This is where Voxbone can help.
3. How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?
Cloud computing is not something that will influence our internal way of working; our services are already offered from “the cloud.” Voxbone delivers phone calls from phone numbers in 50 countries to its customers anywhere in the world over the Internet-- the cloud. However, the adoption of cloud computing by enterprises will impact our business, again in a positive way. Over time, multinational corporations will consolidate their internal voice communications infrastructures in the cloud. They will no longer have a single IP PBX for every site in every country. As a consequence, enterprises no longer will source their telephony service from a different local service provider in each country. They will sign up for a global voice service with a single global voice service provider. This global voice service provider will have to be able to serve all countries where the multinational corporation has subsidiaries. To do this, the service provider will work with a couple of wholesale voice companies that provide local phone services in several countries, such as Voxbone.
4. What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?
Not surprisingly, Voxbone gets many requests for mobile phone numbers from mobile VoIP service providers. Also, given the increase in demand for VoIP services among businesses, we have noticed increased interest in security features and high-availability services, domains in which Voxbone has invested heavily the last two years.
5. There has been talk of Facebook coming into the mobile marketplace with its own devices, and LinkedIn just rolled out a new HTML5 mobile app. Do you expect we will see a push towards universal solutions or customized mobile devices as we move forward in social media?
Personally, I don't believe in customized mobile devices. I believe in a limited number of software platforms on which loads of applications are available: Apple iOS and Google Android predominantly for residential use, and Windows Mobile and RIM predominately for business use. The choice of applications that are offered through these platforms allows everyone to customize a device according to particular needs and likes. I do believe that social media apps will integrate more and more functions that have been delivered by other service providers or applications in the past, such as text messaging, voice and video calling, and content services.
6. Besides phone calls, mobile is now sharing bandwidth with video and machines. What do you predict will be the mix of traffic in the future?
I think that all types of communication will continue to co-exist. In the’90s, the success of texting was thought to remain limited because of the limitation of the medium: just text, with a limited number of characters. However, texting became huge because it's less intrusive than a phone call and hence better suited for some types of communication. Likewise, voice, video, chat and information sharing all have their advantages in certain situations. The best application will be the one that integrates all the communication types in a way that is most convenient to the end user. And as people are different, different types of applications will co-exist.
7 Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter? Why or why not?
Well, that's a difficult question. On the one hand, Google is late, very late. The value and strength of a network is in the numbers, and Facebook and Twitter already have half of the world subscribed. The introduction of Google Buzz to compete with Twitter hasn't been a great success so far. On the other hand, Google usually does things well, and it has the advantage of owning Android OS for smartphones and tablets and now Chrome OS for PCs. Google can handle integration with these devices better than anyone else. But then again, how much difference is this going to make?
8. As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility? What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?
Increased mobility and virtualization of workforces are key drivers of our business. When people communicate and collaborate with one other remotely, often different networks need to be linked, including mobile phone networks, PSTN networks, Web-conferencing services, and cloud-based unified communications services. The diversity of networks to interconnect will grow as virtualization becomes more accepted. Interconnecting these communication networks requires standards: E.164 phone numbers as identifiers, SIP for signaling and IP for transport. That's what Voxbone does in three words: phone numbers, SIP and IP.
9. How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android vs. RIM vs. WM7 vs. HTML5) playing out?
As stated before, iPhone and Android will dominate the residential market, but will also have a share of the phones in the business market. RIM and Windows will have considerable penetration in medium-sized and large enterprises. Although Microsoft’s market share is negligible today, its dominance in the market for enterprise software, the success of Microsoft Lync (Microsoft's IP PBX), the acquisition of Skype and the collaboration with Nokia are good ingredients for a remarkable comeback.
10. Is HTML5 the game changer many predict it will be?
No, I don't believe HTML5 will change the mobile industry. An OS is more than just software; it's a complex ecosystem of hardware vendors, application developers, advertisers, end-users, etc. There must be someone in the middle to manage the ecosystem. For Android, that's Google; for iOS/iPhone, that's Apple. For HTML 5, there is nobody and everybody at the same time. I believe a leading technology company needs to be in the middle to “regulate” the ecosystem.
11. What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?
ITEXPO is one of the biggest shows in the world, if not the biggest show, for the high-tech communications industry. As high-tech communications service providers are our customers, we always meet interesting new companies that later become good customers. As we are a global service provider, these events also provide us the possibility to meet with our current customers “in real life.” And last, the fact that ITEXPO is not only a conference but also a trade show is important for me. Spending some time wandering by the booths gives me a good idea of where the industry is going. I use this input in developing Voxbone's strategy.
12. Who should visit your booth at ITEXPO and why?
Every communications service provider should come and visit us. Voxbone has become bigger and stronger in the last year. Helping customers get the most out of VoIP, Voxbone offers services similar to those provided by traditional global carriers but at a fraction of the cost and with lead times in seconds instead of weeks. Given these benefits, we are proud to serve several big industry players including Skype, Jajah, Telefonica, IDT, Global Crossing and Voxeo. The fact that these companies have chosen to work with Voxbone proves that we have reached the level of quality and maturity the big guys expect.
To find out more about VOXBONE, visit the company at ITEXPO West 2011. To be held Sept. 13-15 in Austin, TX, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Visit VOXBONE in booth 820. Don’t wait. Register now.
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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves