The Rise of Mobile VoIP: VoIP Review’s Take on the Forthcoming Mobile VoIP Popularity Surge
This week, several tech publications took notice of a recent study from Juniper Research. According to Juniper Research’s press release, by 2017 there will be more than 1 billion people using mobile VoIP through free smartphone apps.
Why have tech publications been taking particular notice of this story? Because for many people in the VoIP industry, it is surprising that mobile VoIP has not become that popular already. Mobile VoIP is the best option for cheap mobile calling out there, the same way that landline VoIP is the cheapest option for any business or home. So why the consumer lag?
It seems likely that the biggest obstacle standing in the way of widespread mobile VoIP use is simple lack of awareness. How many average consumers know what the word “VoIP” stands for, anyway? Lots of people use VoIP in the forms of Skype and Google Talk without even realizing they are using VoIP platforms.
There has been some success in the world of mobile VoIP apps among some of these more widely-recognized names, but generally, people are using mobile VoIP apps for one of two reasons:
- They can download it for free, as is the case with many VoIP mobile apps.
- They get the app for no extra charge when they buy a regular landline phone service for their business or homes (8x8, Inc. and RingCentral are two such business VoIP providers that offer free mobile apps to their customers for easy smartphone integration with a hosted PBX system. There are also companies like Vocalocity that sell virtual extensions for cell phones so employees can stay connected to the company PBX through their cell phones at all times).
This is consistent with Juniper Research’s results, which suggest that even with the massive surge of people using mobile VoIP, customers will only use mobile VoIP when they feel like they are getting something for free: that is, they will only use their mobile VoIP apps to talk to other people using the same app, but they will not use their mobile VoIP provider to call another mobile or cell number, which would cost them money.
This is one of the other deterrents for widespread mobile VoIP use: getting mobile VoIP requires an extra step (actually downloading the app) and there is the perception of an extra fee (the per minute fees that providers like Skype charge when customers use their apps to call non-Skype numbers).
Of course, when people are willing to dig a little deeper and actually add up the numbers, they realize that they can actually save a lot of money by using a VoIP app for the bulk of their calling.
For example, with business VoIP provider 8x8, Inc.’s mobile VoIP app, customers just download the app from an app store, use their 8x8 login to sign-in, and they can start using their smartphone for business calling right away. This means that people can get the same unlimited calling on their cell phones that they enjoy in their businesses and homes, so customers can make calls for free with VoIP instead of eating up their cell phone minutes. Customers can also use mobile VoIP apps to avoid roaming fees while out of the country by calling through the Internet instead.
If customers are really making the most of their mobile VoIP apps, they should be able to downgrade their cell phone plans so they can save money on their cell phone bills as well as their landline bills. For example, an employee who uses their cell phone frequently while on business trips may choose Sprint’s unlimited plan for $110/month. If that employee started using a mobile VoIP app for a lot of their calling, they could downgrade their business mobile plan to Sprint’s basic metered plan with 200 minutes for $30/month.
However, customers do still have to have a mobile carrier, which is likely confusing to many customers. That is, customers cannot just get mobile VoIP for their phones. However, they could theoretically just get a data plan with no calling plan. Customers will need to be able to access the Internet through their mobile devices, but this does mean that customers can use any mobile device, and not just phones (including tablets, the iPod Touch, laptops, etc.).
Finally, the last thing standing in the way of widespread mobile VoIP is the limitations on available Internet service. As with landline VoIP, customers can only use mobile VoIP when they have access to an Internet service. However, according to Juniper Research, future improvements in 4G will obviate much of this problem. As customers have easier access to 4G networks and WiFi, mobile VoIP will be an easy option for most types of phoning.
This Guest Post submitted by Rachel Greenberg, the site editor for VoIPReview.org, and several other major VoIP and consumer sites. She works out of the San Diego area.