Analyst claims voice calls to become 'just another app'

An end to call cap plans?

A single data plan to rule them all

With the meteoric rise of smartphones like the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z, there's been an overwhelming shift in the way customers access mobile networks.

According to research firm Telsyte, telcos in Australia have - for the first time - started making more revenue from data than from traditional voice calls.

And this, according to Telsyte mobile services analyst Alvin Lee, is but a stepping stone to a world where customers only pay for mobile data usage, and voice calls are simply another app accessing data.

"The phenomenal growth of smartphones, apps and personal messaging has finally put data and messaging ahead of call revenues for carriers. Ultimately carriers will move to an all IP network with voice becoming another data application," Lee says.

There's always a catch

The prospect of ditching complicated cap plans and providing a uniform measure of consumption for all services through a mobile phone is an enticing one.

The catch is partially a technological one. More and more networks are moving to LTE technology for faster data speeds, but LTE doesn't actually support voice calls as it's a data-only technology.

Current LTE phones instead switch to 2G and 3G networks in order to place voice calls

According to Lee, the arrival of Voice over LTE technology (VoLTE), which allows voice calls to be made over LTE networks, will speed up the transition to a data-only mobile plan.

"Current LTE devices don't support VoLTE, but as they start to, mobile data might become the single unit of value," he says.

The waiting game

Australian telcos aren't expected to start offering VoLTE services until next year at the earliest, which means we're still a while away from a data-only phone plan.

This is especially true given that Telsyte's research says that of the 30.6 million mobile phone services in operation in December 2012, only six per cent of them were on LTE connections.