VoIP, Not Just For Cheap Calls

There are three billion phones on the planet – two billion fixed phones and another billion mobile. The percentage of those utilizing Voice-over-IP technology is so small that it doesn’t show up on the radar. In-Stat research estimates that there were a total of 16 million VoIP subscribers in 2005, and will grow to only 55 million in 2009. A recent report by In-Stat found the following:

– 73% of all VoIP subscribers worldwide have migrated to VoIP without making a conscious buying decision to adopt the new technology.
– In North America and Canada, cable operators are aggressively expanding their VoIP footprint, but are marketing VoIP as plain old telephone service.
– In Asia, South Korea will have the highest VoIP growth rate, followed by Hong Kong and Singapore.
– In Europe, broadband ISPs, such as Free Telecom (France) and FastWeb (Italy) are leading the way with innovative consumer triple-play service bundles.

Even if you factor in Skype, the numbers are not big enough. But that doesn’t mean VoIP is not disruptive. In order to see its true potential, we need to start looking beyond cheap calls. It is the theme for this week’s Om & Niall PodSessions, where we discuss the ins-and-outs of marrying voice with applications.

The conversation, like anyone’s introduction to VoIP, started with Niall telling me about how his father discovered Vonage and wanted to go to Best Buy to check it out. Mr. Kennedy, you see wanted cheap calling to Ireland. Many of us discover VoIP for precisely those reasons. I loved Vonage because it helped me shave of dollars when calling Mom back in India. (She loves to talk!)

Then came Skype, and you could see the possibilities. Free calling through IM … tick! I saw an interesting little app recently, a conferencing calling tool by vApps, that turns Skype into a full blown conference call system, working seamlessly with the old world telephony. A lot of other new tools have started to emerge – Salesforce and Zimbra for example are simply integrating Skype into their apps. I hope they turn to SIP and make the calling even more seamless.

There are more applications which are on the horizon. Take Mabber as an example. Or Tello, which could possibly be able to connect large corporations with their partners directly over the Internet and thus bypassing the PSTN. There are so many more experiments waiting to happen. I sincerely hope someone takes a crack at building Mac-VoIP apps. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrote a plugin for Apple Address Book, where a click could route the call over say, Gizmo Project soft-phone.

You can listen to the PodSession by downloading it, or subscribing to our feed or on iTunes.