Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Web-Based Personal IP Communication

Personal IP communications is the future of real-time communications for the individual user. This market segment is categorized into three areas including Web-based services, portals, and mobile thin-clients.

Together, IDC forecasts these categories will represent more than $5 billion in annual spending in 2012.

At the forefront of the evolution of "voice as an application" are new Web services platforms from vendors like REBTEL or iotum. Voice is becoming embedded in sites, applications, and other services, sometimes by third party developers but also by the original provider.

Web-based personal IP communication comes in many shapes and sizes, ranging from widgets and applications for social networking sites, to Web sites that initiate the bridging of calls.

IP communication clients for devices, like Truphone and TalkPlus, are integral to the growth of personal IP communication services. While some Web-based services offer a mobile solution via bridging capabilities over the cellular network, many thin client services look to provide an end-to-end VoIP experience via the data network. The proliferation of a new category of devices known as MIDs will be dependent on these IP communications clients' voice communications.

Standalone IP communication portals, like Skype and SightSpeed, have become a viable business. Calls between users on a platform are usually free no matter what the revenue structure. Some portals price calls on a per minute basis depending on where the call terminates while others offer a monthly subscription for unlimited minutes.

Similarly, there are portals that rely 100 percent on user-generated revenue and others that rely on a mix of ad-generated revenue and user-generated revenue.

"Funding models to support personal IP communications still remain in flux. Some services are already being offered for free, looking towards advertising to generate revenue. Other players are offering a free basic service and the option of a premium service for a monthly fee," said Rebecca Swensen, research analyst for VoIP Services at IDC.

"Still, it is questionable whether either of these revenue models will be profitable. Will one model become the de facto standard in the next few years or will there continue to be varying revenue models?"