Millions of us will embrace VoIP on our mobile phones in the next few years, but it's not going to be using Wi-Fi. According to one analyst, at least, we're all going to start using our 3G handsets to make Skype (opens in new tab) calls instead of normal telephone calls.
Dean Bubley at Disruptive Analysis said that by 2012 there will be 250 million of us using 3G VoIP, with a mere 100 million (Apple iPhone users?) still using Wi-Fi.
It's the first move in a mobile revolution which many people believe will result in 4G networks which handle only IP data calls instead of standard telephony. It's cheaper for networks that way, but the business model behind it has not yet been worked out. The phone networks still have to make their money, after all.
Some independent VoIP players are already exploiting the fact that today's 3G networks can support VoIP. They're putting dedicated software on smartphones, exploiting open operating systems, flat-rate data plans and built-in VoIP capability. These are linked to competitive 'over the top' phone or IM services via a mobile Internet connection.
At the same time, there is an increasing trend of operators such as ' 3 (opens in new tab)' offering 3G modems for PCs, not just for mobile computing, but also to compete with home DSL/cable broadband offerings. 3 also recently launched a dedicated Skypephone.
Laptop users expect to be able to use their normal broadband applications over 3G, including voice-based ones like Skype. Some operators are even offering their own VoIP software for PCs with wireless broadband.
"3G networks are increasingly capable of supporting VoIP, for both traditional mobile operators and independent Internet-based VoIP challengers," said Bubley.
"But while CDMA operators will benefit from VoIP being 'designed-in' to their newest networks, 3GPP and HSPA operators will have to wait for several years - a window of opportunity which will be exploited by the 'over the top' players. Rather than competing head-on, partnership models have the potential to create win-win propositions"