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New Opportunity by Combining VOIP & Wi-Fi

The arrival of voice over IP (VOIP) as a mainstream service and the growing use of WiFi networks by both enterprise and residential customers are reshaping the landscape for telecom voice services, with carriers deploying new dual-mode offerings as a way to stem further revenue erosion, according to a Heavy Reading global study.

Key market study findings include:

The greatest amount of dual-mode activity right now is in Europe, with particularly strong momentum among carriers in France and the U.K. markets. However, North America is slightly off the pace, due in part to uncertainties surrounding the impact of consolidation among some of the largest carriers. Despite one or two high-profile launches of dual-mode products in Japan and Korea a couple of years ago, the Asian market is also a little off the pace.

The consumer market is the initial focus of most dual-mode services being launched, but the enterprise market may represent greater growth potential in the long term. BT Fusion and Hello (Norway) are explicitly targeting the small business segment.

Cisco and Avaya also report very significant interest in dual-mode voice propositions and are working with Nokia to integrate their IP PBX clients onto the Nokia Series 60 smartphone platform. However, the growth of the enterprise market remains constrained by the inadequate design of today's enterprise Wi-Fi networks for supporting continuous voice services.

Of the dual-mode offerings launched to date, the most attractive one appears to be the UMA service launched in September 2006 by Orange. Orange's new service has no minimum contract, access to fully featured value-added services, two-way handover between GSM and Wi-Fi modes, and relatively attractive pricing.

The key to carriers' successfully navigating the threats and opportunities presented by VOIP and the mobilization of VOIP are the same as with wireline services: respond to VOIP's price points while adding substantial value in terms of ease of use, service quality, and service integration.

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