Developments in fixed analogue voice, mobile voice and VoIP have been amalgamated and combined into one report called Global – Analysis – The Future of Voice (Fixed, Mobile, VoIP).
Increasingly operators will need to take a holistic view of this market. While basic costs in fixed voice will drop by 80% or more, there is still an opportunity to increase ARPU. This requires a total review of this 100-year-old product. There is certainly room for new premium voice services, based on more intuitive navigation, CD sound quality and interactivity between handset and TV. Broadband will combine voice and video, again opening up a number of new voice markets.
Most of the first level of voice services (calls, messaging, enhanced voice, access) is driven by price.
All of these applications will be used if the price is right. For example, look at the i-mode services in Japan, where enhanced voice services (including video messages) are offered for a matter of cents.
In a different application segment, an example would be the price packages such as ‘Family and Friends’. You are phoning these people anyway, so why not use an offer to do this at a lower cost?
While outside the direct voice example, the cable/pay TV bundle is a further example of a commodity product, where price is the most critical element on which customers base their decision: you are already using cable TV you get a discount for that product bundled with voice services. This is a no-brainer for the customer, so you bundle them and give a discount. It doesn’t stimulate higher or more innovative usage, but the advantage for the operator is that it discourages churn.
Transaction services are another interesting segment. It is not only the time convenience that plays a role here, the ‘I am in charge’ element is also important – no ‘interference’ from bank staff, etc.
Age is a factor. For the under 35s the Internet (or SMS for that matter) would be the preferred option, for the over 35s, telephone banking would still be more popular. However, it all comes back to personal preference and letting the customer make the decision that he/she feels most comfortable with, rather than trying to move her/him in a particular direction. This applies to a range of straightforward action-based behaviours, such as transactions, some information and messaging – the more complex the action the less likely people are to go that one step further from voice to online based communication.
However, the telephone has a major disadvantage. It is misused by organisations to deliver very poor quality customer service, long call centre queues etc. This is making the telephone a less popular option than online, especially with always-on broadband becoming more generally available.
While VoIP is certainly going to open up the voice market to innovations, I doubt if audio-conferencing will get a new lease of life from it. Beyond some niche markets, it is not widely used, although it is widely available, and at reasonable prices. An application such as community voice (chatting) would not be successful. It requires too much organisation – everybody has to be available at a specific time and, from a user point of view, participating in such an event is boring because you can’t all talk at the same time and there can be no social chatting in the background between a few people etc.
The cost of calls (especially internationally) is already so low that price is not a driver here either, so VoIP is not critical. The advantage of the Internet is that in most situations delayed communication is fine (85% of all voice interactions would be OK if there is a delayed response – hence the success of messagebanks and answering machines.
I am sure there will be niche markets for always-on voice services such as healthcare, babysitting, etc. However, the local call structure already allows for such services and I am not aware of an overwhelming (mis)use of this; which would indicate high levels of demand. However, add video to a voice call and the scenario is totally different, there will be a market for such a product and the new IP based broadband technologies combined with access deregulation policies will see a range of new innovations here.
In a ‘voice’ sense, the extra value of VoIP could lie in developing further innovations linked to the social, value-added experience of certain voice calls. In situations where you don’t want to establish delayed communications, the quality of the event/experience (whether it is a business call to clinch a deal or a chat with your mum) outweighs the actual cost of the call. I believe that there is room to build on that ‘quality experience’ element, resulting in some new innovative premium voice services entering the market.
Voice will also play a key role in broadband, where it will be linked with video communication.
See: Global – Analysis – The Future of Voice (Fixed, Mobile, VoIP)