Invest in voice, or become data-only operator, says analyst

In a stark portrayal of the future, a leading consultancy believes that mobile operators will be faced with a critical investment decision of whether to continue with voice services, or focus entirely on data access.

According to Scandinavian-based Northstream, as GSM networks come to the end of their lives, operators will need to evaluate the investment requirements associated with enabling voice over LTE, or perhaps to surrender this segment of their business and concentrate on the increasingly important--and fast growing--sector of mobile data provision.

Northstream maintains that it is clear that the telecoms industry has agreed on using IMS and MMTel (Multimedia Telephony) as a standard for voice over LTE. "Some operators may conclude that LTE voice revenues do not justify the related costs and uncertainties," said the company.

Other issues involved with this decision include the cost of service platforms, RCS solutions, device software, handset subsidies and customer service as factors that could influence operators' decisions.

While it might appear as heresy to call for voice services to be dropped, Northstream points to Skype, Google, Facebook and others that have, or are planning, to enter the mobile voice market. These firms are more capable of offering more sophisticated voice services than many mobile operators with features like contact management, presence, messaging and video calling.

In conclusion, the company states that "the level and speed of innovation originating from online service providers is too massive for operators to offer serious competition on the service level, even in markets where operators continue to dominate mobile service delivery."

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