ISP Planet has a new report out showing that Time Warner Cable is about to surpass Vonage in digital phone/VoIP subscribers to become number two in the market after number-one Comcast. (Years of Vonage hype has not been enough to insulate the company against both patent woes and the might of the cable industry.) With all of cable’s success in the voice arena, it’s a good time to look at what comes next. Eventually we’ll move to advanced IP services that cross voice, video and data, but there are plenty of smaller steps in the interim. Here are my predictions:
First, cable will start selling phones with its service. That’s right. Remember when you (or your parents, or grandparents) used to lease phones from the phone company? Well, everything old is new again. Handsets are just a natural extension to the cable modem/voice gateway that the MSOs are already installing in homes.
Second, operators will start offering new “value-add” services via these handsets. Since cordless phones travel the house with you, they are prime vehicles for delivering small bits of information (think SMS messages, directory services, etc.). Just like you pay a little extra for call waiting today, you’ll have an opportunity to tack on a few bucks to the monthly bill for phone widgets.
Third, cable operators will find ways to tie into mobile VoIP. As VoIP expert Andy Abramson pointed out recently, new Windows Mobile 6.0 smartphones have VoIP capabilities. Even if the cable operators don’t want to mess with wireless carriers (it’s still unclear where Pivot will end up), I’m guessing they will want to maintain a brand presence if lots of consumers start using their cell phones with a cable IP connection. I don’t want to speculate too far because I have no concrete data in this area, but it would make sense to move into some basic identity management/personalization applications.
The value of broadband services is rapidly growing out of increased broadband adoption. Research firm Point Topic says the Broadband Value-Added Services (BVAS) market grew by 81% in 2006, and that these services brought in more than 25% as much revenue as basic broadband access. Voice is a money-maker for cable operators. So much has changed in a few short years.