AT&T embraces VoIP - just a PR thing?

Posted by Tristan Barnum on Oct 13, 2009
Last week, AT&T embraced cellular VoIP, clearing the way for Internet-based voice services like Skype, Google Voice and Voxox to be used on the iPhone.

This looks to be on the heels of moves that Verizon has made with respect to Android phones that “opened" their network. AT&T had to emulate this in some way because of increasing regulatory pressure and their controversial positioning against Google Voice for blocking certain destinations with their calling service. AT&T is likely realizing that customer loyalty is more important than specific revenue streams, and there are two forces working in AT&T’s favor by being open:

(1) A vast majority of users probably won’t bother bypassing their calling plans on AT&T (or any operator) to install a VoIP application and use it to make calls. The overall risk from a business perspective is small in comparison to what something like this does for AT&T’s image.

(2) Over time, it is inevitable that all services will flow over a data connection. Fighting this concept is futile. The fact is, the customer is still using the AT&T network, and this might push more users to buy unlimited data plans to support these services. Most users will not get reliable enough service (yet) on a purely data plan, and without SOME sort of voice plan to rely on when the VoIP quality is not good enough (whenever there isn't a very good 3G connection), the chances are they will be charging the customer the same or similar amount of money and providing less of the actual calling... this could convert to higher profit margins overall.

So embracing change as it happens keeps AT&T in a leadership position, and in the end they are not really risking much... they may even be increasing their average revenue per user as well as operating margins.

Do you agree? If you own (or will own) an iPhone, how likely are you to install a VoIP application for making cheaper calls?

Tags: iPhone, Voxox, VoIP