There have been a few announcements recently that have just served to strengthen the general trend towards ‘free’ (see later for an explanation of ‘free’) mobile communications we’ve all been seeing over the last few years. The likes of ‘whatsapp’ and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) have taken a huge dent out of the text messaging numbers (and therefore revenues) mobile providers receive. In addition, the release of BBM 7.0 saw them introduce ‘Voice Call’ over the BBM platform and BlackBerry have now announced, (via CEO Thorsten Heins so one can assume it’s not another hoax that they are going to finally open up to other handsets and BBM will be available on iOS and Android from Summer 2013. Whilst the BBM offering is likely to be more reliable, offer a wider scope of services, options and possibilities than the others, by far the most significant announcement in this sphere is the recent announcement of ‘FaceTime Audio’, effectively, a VoIP system.
The near ubiquitous iPhone (therefore iOS) will be, regardless of all of the above points, the thing that decides whether ‘we’ (the people) are ready to move to a new way of making calls… There is a lot up in the air at the moment (iOS7 won’t even launch until Sept 2013) and there is no guarantee that it will work on 3G/4G/EDGE (FaceTime video does, so it’s a reasonable assumption). There are also always going to be coverage issues (outside of WiFi of course), but this could effectively mean free mobile phone calls between people who ‘know’ each other (have some form of digital connection, at least) are about to become a reality from anywhere to anywhere else… And, as a few people are noticing, it’s really not being discussed. Apple (and the industry in general) seem to finally be making moves into the end game of severing their reliance/dependence on networks and this is going to be big news for businesses as well as the general public. International Call costs, Gone. Non-Inter Fleet Call costs, Gone. The list of possibilities for savings and efficiencies is long.
However the word “free” is bandied about a lot and free isn’t really free, as always, it really just means a different way of paying. So in this case a traditional mobile voice call over the airwaves becomes a call using data. Now how you pay for that data is another matter, there are essentially 6ways under current revenue models:
1) A data bolt-on e.g. £5 a month for 1Gb – whether that’s on a dongle or on your phone or ‘tethered’ to another device e.g iPhone as a hotspot for an iPad.
2) PAYG e.g. £1 per MB
3) Home/Business Wi-Fi – so you (or your employer) pays the broadband provider a monthly fee
4) Public Wi-Fi – usually payment is in kind i.e. purchase of a coffee, magazine etc
5) Wi-Fi Hotspots e.g. BT provides ‘free’ hotspots to those purchasing home broadband.
So, on corporate fleets you can’t expect all users to understand the cost of every call and to make the choice between Wi-Fi, Data Carried Calls or Voice Calls. The sensible and logical choice for businesses is to analyse the historic usage and then procure the right bundles for your corporate fleet that fits the actual ‘real world’ usage profile of the users.