Click Online's Stephen Cole spoke to Robin Duke-Woolley from the global market analysts Juniper Research about how the telecommunications industry will be affected by Voice Over Internet Protocol.
Is this a threat to the telecom companies, or an opportunity?
It's both a threat and an opportunity.
It's a threat because people will have to start changing their tariffs and that means differences to their business. And it's an opportunity because there are potentially a whole new range of new services that could be provided.
Have some of the big telecom companies been caught out by the sudden rise of internet telephony?
Yes they have. We heard in Click Online's report about KPN and that is a very interesting example. They have had to think very seriously about the situation that they are facing because they have a very competitive market situation in the Netherlands against the cable TV companies.
The cable TV companies have introduced broadband services including VOIP very rapidly, and have taken a substantial market share. And that has significantly affected the traditional voice business of KPN. So as a result KPN have had to think about how they address that, and have had to do it very quickly.
We have heard a little about the advantages of internet telephony, but are there any stumbling blocks?
It does, if you call it a stumbling block. VOIP comes together with broadband in developed countries and we are looking very much at the delivery of bundles of services over a broadband link. So you have to be able to have those broadband links.
And there are problems in introducing those, both technical and regulatory and due to market pressures and so forth.
In developing countries of course they don't even have the infrastructure, so they are starting from much further back. But the opportunities in developing countries are probably somewhat different anyway, and perhaps don't rely so much on broadband.
Do you see the big telecom companies trying to regulate, or persuade governments to regulate, to delay the introduction of VOIP, so they can get their business models into operation first, so they can make the maximum amount of money.
I don't think that they are going to get that opportunity actually. I think the market is moving away from them and the technology is moving extremely fast and is very difficult, if not impossible to regulate.
So if the telecommunication companies don't grasp the opportunity and make something of it, then frankly the technology will bypass them and the opportunities will go to their competitors. So they have no choice, they have to embrace it. And that is, as we have seen, the situation KPN found themselves in.
It is not something that is just going to go away. It really is very reminiscent of the introduction of the telephone in the first place, it is like the next stage of where telephone services are going. And will have huge implications for all of us in the years to come.
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