CARIBBEAN TELECOMS BRIEFING. Mobile VoIP: Impacting Voice Networks, Devices & Business Models in the Caribbean.

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1 Mobile VoIP: Impacting Voice Networks, Devices & Business Models in the Caribbean

2 ABOUT THE AUTHORS Dr. Malik Kamal-Saadi is a Principal Analyst within Informa Telecoms & Media specialising in market and technology development. He has authored many of Informa Telecoms & Media s market leading reports including Mobile Application Platforms and Operating Systems, Future Mobile Broadband, IMS Opportunities and Challenges and Future Mobile Computing. Malik combines thorough understanding of strategic and business-related issues with an in-depth knowledge of telecoms-related technologies and has more than 10 years experience in the telecoms industry. Simon Sherrington is a freelance partner of Informa Telecoms & Media with 13 years of experience of analysing and reporting on telecoms and Internet market trends. He was the author of the Informa Telecoms & Media report Global Mobile Strategies for Quadruple Play. Simon specialises in looking at how companies within the telecoms and Internet markets are innovating; and analysing how company strategies are evolving in the face of technological, regulatory, consumer-led or competitive pressures. BRIEFING STAFF Editorial Director Gavin Patterson (London) Kris Szaniawski Research Manager Principal Analyst Tammy Parker Managing Editor Olivia Gibney (London) Production Manager Maria Mitchell (London) Production Editor Marta Almansa (London) Web Site Senior Marketing Executive Aileen Grant T: (44) F: (44) Publisher Mark Newman Mortimer Street London w1t 3JH UK T: (44) F: (44) US Editorial Office P.O. Box 268 Longmont, CO USA T: (1) Subscriber Service Colleen Barron One Research Drive Westborough MA USA T: (1) F: (1) Distributed 6 times a year No part of this publication may be copied, photocopied or duplicated without prior written permission from the publishers Informa UK Ltd. I

3 Contents CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Market segmentation and roadmap for VoIP in the mobile market Figure 1.1: Market segmentation for VoIP in the mobile and wireless markets Figure 1.2: Roadmap for different mobile VoIP solutions Supply-side market drivers Figure 1.3: Types of player targeting the wireless and mobile VOIP markets Fixed wireless operators Public Wi-Fi operators Hybrid operators Mobile-only operators Fixed network operators Service providers Figure 1.4: Comparison of supply side drivers and inhibitors by company type Near-term challenges Longer-term perspective CHAPTER 2 CASE STUDIES Mobile operator Sprint Nextel Company overview and strategy Services Customers/subscribers SWOT analysis Established VoIP providers Jajah Company overview and strategy Services Figure 2.3: Jajah VoIP call Customers/subscribers SWOT analysis Vonage Company overview and strategy Services Customers/subscribers SWOT analysis CHAPTER 3 MOBILE AND WIRELESS VOIP MARKET FORECASTS Forecasts overview Figure 3.1: Worldwide mobile and wireless VoIP users by market segment II

4 Mobile plug-in solutions Figure 3.2: Worldwide mobile users of VoIP plug-in solutions by region, Mobile softphone solutions Market forecasts for smartphones Figure 3.3: Worldwide smartphone sales, by region, Market forecasts for WLAN-enabled mobile phones and PDAs Figure 3.4: Dual mode handsets versus WLAN-enabled PDA sales, Figure 3.5: Worldwide WLAN-enabled handset sales, by region, Market forecasts for VoWLAN softphone users Figure 3.6: Worldwide VoWLAN users, by region and by handset type, Figure 3.7: Worldwide VoWLAN users, by handset type, Figure 3.8: Worldwide VoWLAN users, by region, Market forecasts for users of softphones over cellular networks Figure 3.9: Worldwide softphone over cellular users, by region, III

5 Chapter 1 Introduction VoIP services delivered over a wide range of mobile or wireless technologies are both an opportunity and a threat for operators and vendors. New entrants and smaller operators are already using wireless and mobile VoIP as a means of undercutting the market leaders. At the same time, the major operators are positioning wireless VoIP as a means of defending market share of call minutes and selling service bundles. The market for VoIP is currently gaining momentum although a number of challenges still need to be overcome before network operators and VoIP service providers can enjoy its full potential. Although companies are still in the very early stages of introducing both wireless and mobile VoIP services and end user demand is as yet unproven, operators are increasingly of the view that, ultimately, migration to wireless and mobile VoIP is inevitable. VoIP currently represents one of the hottest topics in the telecommunications industry. It is already an established business as thousands of third party services providers all over the world are offering cheap VoIP services where traffic is carried over either the PSTN or cellular networks and over Internet protocol at the edge of the network. VoIP is also established in the enterprise environment, where it offers several advantages over dedicated fixed lines for voice including greater intra-networking facilities, more efficient ways of call handling and incorporation of value added services (VAS) such as caller ID and corporate settings. Companies such as Cisco and Avaya are already leading solution providers in this arena. There is now an increasing trend to bring the VoIP model into the closed and coveted worlds of mobile communications. Existing network operators envisage gradually adopting VoIP and moving their voice traffic onto a single high speed data network because employing VoIP can offer numerous potential advantages: Operational economy because it is more efficient to build and manage a single high-speed transport network designed to handle voice, video and data together as IP. Lower equipment costs because convergent network and terminal equipment bring significant savings. Software-based flexibility makes it cheaper and faster to create and test, provision and manage new services. 1

6 Introduction Software-based control coupled with the inherent flexibility of IP makes it easier to build innovative new features and services. Having voice run over IP enables service providers to offer service bundles more economically and to offer a variety of value added services around voice. But at the same time VoIP is a disruptive technology that is increasingly threatening the revenues of fixed and mobile operators. Currently, the majority of VoIP users are using software-based solutions over broadband access from likes of Skype, Vonage, Jajah, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. The number of players currently offering VoIP services through software solutions has grown dramatically over the last two years from just four or five players in 2004 to more than 50 players currently competing in both mobile and fixed environments. The operators are threatened by these VoIP solutions; they are carried over the operators broadband networks and substitute their voice services, directly cannibalising their revenues. The operator is in danger of becoming a fat data pipe where third-party service providers collect a large portion of existing revenues while the operator collects just a flat fee for providing a data pipe to the home. Mobile operators may also be increasingly challenged by players offering VoIP services via mobile software solutions. As the biggest, fastest-growing and most profitable part of the global voice market, mobile is a tempting target for disruptive new entrant players. Relatively high mobile pricing makes mobile VoIP an attractive proposition for new entrant competitive providers. They can use VoIP to bypass mobile operators conventional switched voice infrastructure and high pricing and offer first cheaper and, perhaps, eventually richer services. Market segmentation and roadmap for VoIP in the mobile market The growth of mobile VoIP solutions and IP softphones in the mobile and wireless markets is snowballing. There are increasing numbers of IP phone models, VoIP-enabled handset devices and PDAs in the market. VoIP applications are now used by a number of device manufacturers, including Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and HTC, as competitive differentiators to attract customers and increase market share. Currently there are more than 25 companies worldwide that have developed downloadable or embedded pocket VoIP software client solutions to enable the community of their users to talk for free to other users using the same client. Subscribers are charged minimum fees when making calls outside their communities. These companies also act as mobile virtual VoIP service providers offering relatively cheap call services to any mobile or fixed line. 2

7 So far, the majority of mobile VoIP soft solution providers are targeting access via Wi-Fi connectivity, so users can enjoy VoIP service in public hot spot areas, at work by connecting to the corporate network or at home by connecting to the broadband access. The requisite high performance of the mobile device hardware needed to process VoIP packets is another challenge facing soft solutions. So far, only PDAs and Pocket PC like phones can handle this functionality. Introduction Another threat facing pure mobile operators may come from operators that have both fixed and mobile telecommunications interests. These players are now building a global strategy to provide fixed/mobile converged (FMC) services. Wireless local area networks (WLANs) such as /a, b and g, Universal Mobile Access (UMA) and VoIP are the core enabling technologies for FMC services. VoIP will be used to carry voice and other VAS over the WLAN and also to carry them over fixed networks. One of the main benefits of deploying FMC is to help carriers to engineer the traffic better between high-cost mobile infrastructure and low-cost fixed infrastructure. At the cellular networks level, VoIP traffic is bandwidth-hungry. Because of the high requirements needed to ensure quality of service (QoS) as well as manage and transport VoIP traffic over cellular networks, only mobile broadband technologies, such as HSUPA, CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Revision A (EV-DOrA) or WiMAX, have the ability to handle this traffic. Therefore wide-scale deployment of end-to-end VoIP service over mobile broadband networks is not expected before the takeoff of enabling networks such HSUPA and EV-DOrA expected in late 2008 or Figure 1.1: Market segmentation for VoIP in the mobile and wireless markets VoIP Wireless (Wi-Fi, WiMAX) Cellular Fixed/Mobile Convergence PDAs Dual-mode phones Plug-in Softphone Network integrated Enterprise Consumer Enterprise Consumer Enterprise Consumer Source: Informa Telecoms & Media 3

8 Introduction In the wireless segment, two categories of phone solutions exist: Wireless IP phones are devices specifically designed to carry VoIP over wireless connectivity. Using these phones, the VoIP service can be accessed over any wireless access point at home, in the enterprise or even over any public hot spot. Examples of such phones include: the UTStarcom F1000 and F3000; the Skype phone designed by USI; ZyXEL P-2000W; and the Netgear Wi-Fi phone. These phones are tightly configured and designed to support a specific service provider. For example, UTStarcom F1000 is specifically designed for the Vonage service and is not able to support any other service. Mobile softphones are basically software clients that can be embedded or downloaded to any PDA or dual mode mobile phone powered by advanced OSs that support VoIP functionality. A number of players, including Skype, Tencent, Microsoft, Aql, Eqo and Truphone, are now building different communities of VoIP users. They are offering PC users and some PDA and smartphone users free-to-download VoIP platforms to enable subscribers to make free calls to other users inside their communities. These companies also act as mobile virtual VoIP service providers offering their subscribers relatively cheap call services to any mobile or fixed line. In the cellular market, different approaches to the implementation of VoIP services are possible: The first implementation approach consists of using a mobile softphone client to enable the user to be connected to the VoIP service via cellular networks. Because incumbent mobile operators generally make access difficult for any content outside their walled gardens, a pre-established agreement is needed to enable softphone providers to offer VoIP services over cellular networks. Skype, for example, has already signed few deals to offer VoIP services to mobile users including subscribers to Hutchison s 3 operations and E-Plus using PDA smartphones and PC cards. The second is a software plug-in implementation approach. Users sign up through an Internet web site and then get a software plug-in added to their device. Most of the software plug-in clients are based on a Java micro edition (J2ME) applet and user datagram protocol (UDP). This client consists of a telephony interface connected to an agent platform which reports to the server. Once details of the call destination are entered the agent sends them together with the caller details to the server of the VoIP provider. The server then establishes the communication between the two parts (the caller and the receiver) using IP network when possible and mobile network at the access level. Although this service uses VoIP to certain extent, connectivity at the access level is carrier over cellular network (see fig. 2.8 for a schematic picture of this approach). Players using this approach include Jajah, Mino Wireless, Eqo Mobile, iskoot, Firsthand, and Agile. 4

9 End-to-end integration of VoIP over cellular networks is a third possible implementation approach. One of the advantages of running VoIP over cellular networks is that it makes the handset a native IP device, which significantly simplifies its design and functionality. However, current cellular packet networks, such GPRS, EDGE, WCDMA, EV-DOr0 or even HSDPA, are not designed to handle end-to-end VoIP services. One of the limitations of these networks is obviously the low bandwidth they offer. Nevertheless, future generation networks such as EV-DOrA, EV-DOrB and HSUPA are potentially capable of handling VoIP services. Qualcomm has already demonstrated VoIP calls over EV-DOrA wireless infrastructure using real-world conditions. Introduction FMC is another environment where VoIP can be used. Network operators with interests in both fixed and mobile business can deliver a single subscription service using one phone and one number over both fixed and mobile infrastructure. This means the mobile handset can use mobile cellular infrastructure outdoors and VoIP over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth indoors at work and/or at home. Voice over WiMAX (VoWiMAX) is another potential market for VoIP services. As a high-bandwidth and long-range wireless technology, WiMAX has the potential to revolutionise the worldwide broadband access market and strongly compete with alternatives such as cable, ADSL, or fibre to the building (FTTB) technologies. VoWiMAX can simply be seen as a more powerful, bigger-capacity and longer-range version of VoWLAN, but widespread WiMAX and consequently VoMiMAX deployments are likely to take years. Figure 1.2: Roadmap for different mobile VoIP solutions VoIP over Mobile WiMAX VoIP over EV-DOrB VoIP Technology Roadmap VoIP EV-DOrA VoIP Hardphones VoIP over HSUPA Source: Informa Telecoms & Media Softphones over WiFi & cellular VoIP Plug-in solutions

10 Introduction Supply-side market drivers Because they are potentially so strategically important, wireless and mobile VoIP services are proving to be a point of convergence for players from many different parts of the telecoms market. There are a number of different types of company that are either considering, planning or actively offering wireless or mobile VoIP services (see fig. 1.3). Figure 1.3: Types of player targeting the wireless and mobile VOIP markets Short-term Medium to long term Indirect content and application providers Mobile service providers Fixed broadband providers MVNOs Mobile operators mvoip wvoip Wi-Fi ISPs Fixed wireless ISPs Hybrid operators Indirect access VoBB providers Source: Informa Telecoms & Media Fixed wireless operators These players are already deploying fixed wireless infrastructure for broadband Internet. Typically, they compete with fixed broadband access providers, which often also provide PSTN or VoIP telephony services. By adding voice capability, fixed wireless operators can make their services more attractive to potential customers, as well as increasing ARPU from existing customers. Depending upon the fixed wireless infrastructure they have chosen, their access to frequency, and the terms of any licensing agreements, the fixed wireless operators might be able to offer: a physically fixed terminal offering VoIP over a wireless backhaul circuit; nomadic wireless VoIP, with roaming limited to a small area around the local access point; or in the future they might be able to offer portable (with walking speed cell handover) or even fully mobile VoIP services (using mobile WiMAX). Examples of fixed wireless operators offering wireless VoIP services include WiMAX Telecom in Austria and other countries, Irish Broadband in Ireland, Clearwire in the US and MVS Net in Mexico. 6

11 Public Wi-Fi operators The driver for commercial Wi-Fi network operators to add wireless VoIP is to increase the attractiveness of their services and to add a new revenue stream. Community Wi-Fi networks are being installed to benefit the community at large and voice over Wi-Fi is typically seen as a natural extension of the broadband access service on offer. However, one technical challenge is that most existing public Wi-Fi infrastructure does not support the quality of service standards required for VoIP services, although VoIP services will work in practice as long as a hot spot is lightly loaded. Introduction Public Wi-Fi operators supporting wireless VoIP services include BT and The Cloud in the UK, and Azulstar and Wayport in the US. Hybrid operators These are the companies that operate both fixed and mobile networks; they also happen to be the biggest operators in the telecoms market. These companies have a dilemma. Their separate fixed and mobile networks already face declining revenues as a result of traditional fixed and mobile competition. By introducing wireless VoIP services, they risk cannibalising the more valuable cellular mobile and to a lesser extent PSTN minutes and replacing them with cheaper VoIP minutes. On the other hand, if they do not introduce wireless VoIP services, they risk looking poor in comparison with alternative operators that have no legacy revenue streams to protect. Convergence is a very positive driver for the introduction of mobile VoIP. By migrating voice services to IP on both fixed and mobile networks, these players can introduce interesting, differentiated and potentially high value services which combine fixed and mobile voice, data services and content, and which will ultimately be available over any network or device. Examples of dual network operators include most former monopoly operators in Europe, such as France Telecom/Orange, Deutsche Telecom/T-Mobile, TeliaSonera and Telecom Italia/TIM, and numerous alternative operators, such as Wind in Italy and NTL/Virgin Mobile in the UK. Mobile-only operators A potential driver for a mobile network operator to introduce wireless VoIP services is the opportunity to capture the 65-75% of calls made within home and office environments that do not go over mobile networks. This is linked with the desire to prevent fixed operators from capturing mobile traffic when they add Wi-Fi capability in the home and office. 7

12 Introduction The main incentive for offering mobile VoIP is the ability to introduce higher value, feature-rich services combining voice, data and content. Again, a fear is that mobile VoIP services could undercut existing cellular circuit-switched voice services, although the mobile operators have a reasonable degree of control over this in their own domain, given their strong control over both mobile access networks and end-user devices A longer-term incentive for introducing mobile VoIP is the potential to combine the cellular and data networks by putting all the voice onto an IP network, thus avoiding the increased costs associated with operating two separate systems. Mobile operators also need to be able to provide high quality broadband access to provide backhaul for Wi-Fi access points. This requires the deployment of a fixed network, or buying wholesale access to existing broadband infrastructure, which may cause difficulties in assuring the quality of the service over the fixed IP portion of the network. Fixed network operators A key driver for fixed network operators (including the DSL broadband access providers and cable operators) to introduce wireless VoIP is to stop fixed mobile substitution (FMS) the substitution of fixed calls by mobile and to recapture some of the 25-35% of calls made from the home or office over a mobile network. For new entrants, adding wireless VoIP also helps to differentiate them from the incumbent provider. Service providers There are a variety of types of service provider: Content and application providers: This type of player, as a new entrant to the telecoms market, has no legacy revenues to protect. The driver for offering wireless or mobile VoIP typically revolves around either building a large customer base or using wireless or mobile VoIP to generate incremental revenue from an existing user base. Examples include Mazingo and ROK Entertainment. Indirect access voice over broadband providers: These players offer voice over broadband services but do not provide the broadband connection; they already compete by providing fixed VoIP services. Adding fixed wireless, nomadic wireless or full mobile VoIP capability enables them to expand the number of situations in which their services can be used by their customers. Vonage is a prime example. Mobile service providers: These companies have emerged specifically to exploit the arbitrage opportunity created by the difference between the costs carried by fixed and mobile network operators, and the costs carried by asset-light or asset-free IP service providers. Examples include Jajah, Rebtel or Mig33. 8

13 MVNOs: As new players to the mobile market, MVNOs do not have to worry about protecting legacy revenue streams. The incentive to introduce wireless VoIP (or indeed mobile VoIP if their wholesale contract permits it) is to make the service more appealing to customers and to help drive market share. Examples include Hello in Norway or Helio in the US. Introduction Figure 1.4: Comparison of supply side drivers and inhibitors by company type Drivers Inhibitors Company type Reach new customers Protect market share Sell more to existing customers Reduce costs Technology availability Cannibalisation risk BFW and Wi-Fi ISPs IA VoBB Dual network operators Mobile-only operators Fixed network operators Content and application providers MSPs and MVNO s Source: Informa Telecoms & Media Near-term challenges Although the end game is rarely disputed, the speed with which we will get there, and the overall impact on the shape and structure of the industry is by no means clear. There is potential for widespread disruption and industry re-structuring. To avoid losing their current positions of dominance, the established players face a few key challenges: Managing the transition without ARPU meltdown: Operators have two principal strategies for competing against low cost Wi-Fi services and widespread ARPU decline. Firstly, they can create bundles with existing services and offer huge numbers of minutes on the traditional network for a good price so limiting price attrition to niche markets. Secondly, they can offer better quality of service at a premium. Finding new applications to offset the effect of ARPU declines: Many of these will be based on innovative combinations of voice and data, combined with SIP-enabled functionality. Perhaps the biggest growth area will be the growth of voice usage itself. Many operators hope that the arrival of wireless VoIP service might actually drive additional voice usage over their mobile networks, by helping them to capture traffic from fixed operators. Operators are also hoping to drive extra voice revenues by getting people to use their 9

14 Introduction laptops for voice calls by providing them with softphones to download, or softphones on USB sticks. Some operators could also embrace third party VoIP competitors to help drive traffic towards their own networks rather than competitors infrastructure. Avoiding loss of control: A number of operators have attempted to prevent loss of control by banning the use of independent VoIP services as part of the terms and conditions when signing up for a contract. Another method for preventing loss of control is to maintain a hold over the key areas of wireless access as well as mobile access, for example by competing in auctions for wireless spectrum to ensure they are the main providers of licensed wireless services. Managing the threat of convergence and the arrival of powerful new entrants: Fighting off the threats from minnows is always required in a competitive market. But convergence is bringing some big companies with powerful brand names and deep pockets into the market such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and ebay. Their entry to the market would be likely to be highly disruptive. Potential strategies for dealing with the powerful new entrants are to: i) provide entry level products which broadly match their price points, and then focus on up-selling customers with products they will find hard to match; ii) establish a market presence as a wholesale provider and take advantage of their brands and power to drive traffic to the network in high volumes; iii) work with them. Longer-term perspective It is highly likely that, in the long-term, the arrival of wireless and eventually mobile VoIP will lead to some restructuring of the industry, in the same way that the transitions from analogue mobile to digital mobile, from 2G to 3G mobile and from PSTN to VoIP led to some industry restructuring. We can probably expect to see some players specialising in the provision of wholesale services to wireless and mobile VoIP providers, and application providers (in the same way that some operators have accepted that a good way to drive traffic on their networks is to encourage MVNOs). These players will probably be those that are trailing in terms of market share. While wireless VoIP services are becoming more commonplace, driven by the competing desire either to capture mobile call traffic or defend the traffic already captured in specific geographic locations (such as the home or office), and while third party mobile VoIP applications are already available (such as Skype on 3 s network), it is likely to be several years before fully integrated, end-to-end mobile VoIP services based on HSPA (HSDPA and HSUPA) and EV-DOrA or mobile WiMAX emerge. The longer-term driver for the introduction of mobile VoIP is the provision of integrated mobile voice and data services with value adding applications. Operators with CDMA 10

15 networks will be driven towards provision of fully mobile VoIP before European rivals running WCDMA networks, simply because it is much harder for them to make voice and data interoperate when the voice is going over circuit-switched networks, thus inhibiting their development of integrated voice and data applications. Introduction Fully integrated mobile VoIP services offered by the mobile operators themselves seem likely to start to emerge from 2008, but they are equally likely to remain small in scale and impact at least until From the customer perspective, the particularly price conscious consumers will be trying third party mobile VoIP clients before then. The main driver for customers to take up mobile VoIP services from operators will be the availability of integrated mobile voice and data applications. This will particularly be the case once business and consumer application developers incorporate mobile VoIP technology into their products. Many operators recognise the possibility that in the long-term (perhaps years) cellular networks will be shut down, with everything moving onto IP. But they doubt this will happen until networks have been upgraded to cope with much larger volumes of data traffic (due to widespread mobile TV usage amongst other things) so that adding voice to the network has only a limited impact on service quality. The aim of migrating to a single network would be saving costs. When mobile VoIP services emerge, the leading players are expected to position themselves as quality providers, trying to offset falling prices per minute by pulling in extra traffic and selling a premium quality of service. When they eventually make the switch to end-to-end mobile voice over IP services (over HSPA or EV-DOrA), they will probably not present customers with a switched mobile versus IP mobile cost choice at all in the same way that they did not position digital cellular services as being cheaper than analogue. Network operators are unlikely to encourage radical reductions of prices simply because they have deployed mobile VoIP, although some indicate off the record that they are considering introducing low-priced entry-level services to enable them to compete with the headline grabbing products of third party mobile VoIP providers such as Skype, Mobiboo or JaJah. These entry-level services will be used to attract customers with the aim of up-selling to improved and more expensive service packages in the same way that fixed broadband operators typically offer multiple tiers of service starting with a very cheap entry-level package. The nightmare scenario for mobile operators is a dirt cheap flat-rate plan on HSPA networks, probably offered by an MVNO in combination with circuit switched mobile outside 3G coverage areas. But before this is even a possibility, the market needs a ready supply of HSDPA devices supporting VoIP and HSUPA needs to be deployed. 11

16 Mobile operator Sprint Nextel Company overview and strategy Chapter 2 Case studies Sprint Nextel is a leading mobile and wireless network operator in the US. It was formed through the merger of Sprint and Nextel. It also operates long-distance fixed networks, but recently spun off its local telephony business as a separate company. Sprint Nextel s mobile infrastructure is based on CDMA and iden technology and covered 278 million people by mid It has been steadily upgrading its CDMA network to offer data services under the PowerVision brand. Its first upgrade, to EV-DO Revision 0, had reached over 153 million people by the end of June In August the company announced that it was planning to begin rolling out services based on an upgrade to EV-DOrA during 4Q06 and to provide coverage for around 40 million people by the year-end. The complete network is due to be upgraded by 3Q07. In August Sprint Nextel announced plans to deploy a 4G network based on mobile WiMAX (IEEE e-2005); the network is expected to provide coverage for 100 million people by It will operate in the 2.5GHz frequency range, in which Sprint Nextel holds licences covering 85% of homes in the top 100 US markets. Sprint Nextel will be working with Intel, Motorola and Samsung to deploy the network, to make sure integrated chipsets are widely available within devices and to ensure that multimode CDMA/EV-DO/WiMAX compatible devices are on offer. Services are expected to be launched on a trial basis in selected areas towards the end of 2007 and the operator expects to invest US$2-2.5 billion in 2007 and 2008 to make services a reality. The payback is that it expects mobile WiMAX to deliver substantial cost-per-bit improvements in comparison with currently available mobile broadband technologies. Sprint Nextel is already one of the largest Wi-Fi providers in the US, operating a network of around 22,000 hot spots. Services Sprint has been offering an early form of mobile VoIP service for some time in the form of its ReadyLink Walkie Talkie push-to-talk (PTT) service on its PCS network. Meanwhile 12

17 Case studies Nextel had a PTT service based on its iden network. Their offerings were based on different technologies Sprint s service is IP-based, while Nextel s service is based on Motorola s proprietary iden packet technology and not based on IP. Both have continued to be available since the merger of the two businesses. In October 2006 the operator announced plans to upgrade its PTT offerings. It is deploying Qualcomm s QChat solution and has contracted Lucent Technologies to project manage the installation, integration and testing work. The upgraded service will run over Sprint s nationwide PCS network and will be interoperable with the Nextel PTT service. It will also be implemented on Sprint s EV-DOrA network and will be available from QChat is optimised to work on an EV-DOrA network and is expected to offer a call set-up latency of less than one second between handsets. Sprint, Lucent and Qualcomm reported that they have completed trials using pre-production handsets, commercial-grade lab systems and EV-DOrA field sites. Aside from enhanced PTT, Sprint Nextel has stated that the faster data rates on its EV-DOrA network will enable the provision of a number of applications including high-speed video telephony. The operator has already tested a number of new applications including all-ip video telephony, and multi-user videoconferencing services. The operator is expected to use its WiMAX network for data services, leaving capacity on the EV-DOrA network for voice. Sprint Nextel has a strategic partnership with a number of the leading cable operators in the US: Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Bright House Networks and Cox Communications. The partners unveiled their agreement in late 2005; they aim to integrate voice, data and entertainment services (including the provision of proprietary content and cross-platform portals), and the supply of integrated handsets, modems and set-top boxes. The partners are widely expected to introduce a telephony service which provides calling via IP over the cable operators cable TV networks, uses Wi-Fi to provide nomadic access from the home and within range of a public Wi-Fi hot spot, and uses Sprint Nextel s mobile network elsewhere. They have been reported to have been testing handsets, but would not officially confirm this. The partners first joint services (normal wireless offered through the cable partners) were introduced to the market in limited areas in November 2006, with services expected nationwide during Sprint Nextel s VoIP relationship with the cable companies is already strong, given that it provides backbone services enabling them to deliver fixed VoIP services to their broadband customers. By August 2006 it served cable companies with over 1.2 million VoIP subscribers. 13

18 Customers/subscribers Sprint Nextel does not publish the exact number of users is has for its PTT service, but does claim a walkie-talkie community of over 20 million people. In mid-2006 it was the third largest mobile operator in the US with nearly 52 million customers. Case studies SWOT analysis Strengths Sprint Nextel has the advantage of significant scale to drive economies in its handset purchasing. It has a strong contract customer base. Weaknesses Sprint Nextel s lack of fixed infrastructure might prove to be a weakness if delivering converged services alongside the cable operators proves problematic and delays its launches in comparison with competitors. Opportunities Sprint Nextel has the exclusive opportunity to market its services to millions of cable operator customers across the US and its mobile service will be bundled into the quad play offer of at least four major players. Threats There is a risk that wireless usage by cable operator customers will pull substantial retail traffic off Sprint Nextel s mobile networks in home zones and hot spot zones and replace it with less valuable wholesale transit traffic, contributing to a decline in ARPU on the network. Established VoIP providers Jajah Company overview and strategy Its founders characterise Jajah as Internet enabled telephony; VoIP is used in the core network only, with both ends of the call terminated through conventional switched infrastructure fixed or mobile. Jajah uses a softswitch (vendor undisclosed) and proprietary software. It currently has agreements with a handful of wholesalers and terminates calls at 200 termination points in 85 countries. The company claims that it always pays local wholesale rates, is the biggest 14

19 Case studies buyer of Global Crossing s golden VoIP minutes (highest quality minutes) in Europe and has earned up to 50% discount in just five months of operation because of its high volumes. Jajah says it may launch an IPO in The company does not rule out developing alliances with infrastructure-owning fixed operators that might wish to encourage a model which offers cut-price telephony without cutting out the network operator. Jajah only aims to do just a little better than break even on call costs and plans to push prices down towards zero. Its strategy is to make money on services such as conference calling and others it claims are being readied for launch. However, there is also no doubt that Jajah s success will represent yet more downward pressure on call pricing and on the pricing of value-added features, such as conferencing. Services Users initiate calls through their web browsers. A personal directory of numbers that are used regularly may be stored on the subscriber s home page. The Jajah user instructs the Jajah softswitch to initiate calls to both the Jajah user s designated phone number (fixed or mobile) and the called party. First Jajah terminates a call to the caller s phone (the phone rings and the caller picks it up to be told that Jajah is now calling the target phone) it then terminates the call in the other direction to the called party. Essentially, Jajah pays for two local network terminations for each call and uses VoIP for the expensive long distance leg in the middle. Figure 2.3: Jajah VoIP call Source: Jajah 15

20 Users are encouraged to urge others to sign up to Jajah with the incentive that all calls between Jajah users are free. It also offers a plug in for Microsoft Outlook. Calls can be initiated from a Web page; users of Symbian handsets or most handsets which use Java, can download an application which then initiates the call via an SMS. Case studies Except in the US, where the receiver pays, calls to mobile numbers are considerably more expensive for the caller than landline calls (for example, per minute compared with per minute for fixed line calls in the UK) in the countries where telecoms is liberalized. Jajah defines these countries as Zone 1 and free calls are only available to other Jajah users in these Zone 1 countries. Jajah claims its service is available in nearly every country, only denying service in a handful of countries with a high fraud problem. Barriers to use are kept low. Registered users are granted a small amount of credit and can begin making calls straight away. The account can then be topped up by credit card with the credit limit expanding automatically as a healthy payment pattern is established. Customers/subscribers According to Jajah, only 3% of Internet users are currently using VoIP software despite the cost savings. It claims that a large proportion of potential users regard software download/configuration and headset connection as a barrier which contrasts with the low-barrier search engines now used by the vast majority of Internet users. Jajah wants to target those potential customers and ultimately become a telephony version of Google by eliminating barriers in Internet telephony. It has worked hard on ease-of-use and on simplifying its marketing messages, emphasising its Internet-enabled approach. The company wants to work towards zero cost for both fixed and mobile basic voice calling. Jajah claims that the fact many Skype users download and subsequently do not use that service indicates that many users are still wedded to the conventional phone and, if given a choice at about the same price, would use that instead of new terminal technology. Jajah s most important proposition is therefore to offer VoIP pricing while retaining the tried and trusted conventional telephone. By not pushing VoIP through the access network, Jajah can also claim higher voice quality. The company claims less than 3% of its users avoid payment of any kind by only calling other Jajah users. Where calls are paid for (to non-jajah users), Jajah makes a reasonable margin, but this revenue must be offset against the proportion of calls made for free for which Jajah must still pay wholesale rates. The company claims the ratio of free to paid-for calls is bearable and will be covered by additional revenue from ancillary services such as conferencing and scheduled calls, as well as diminished by ever-lower wholesale termination costs. 16

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