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Evolution of Mobile VoIP: VoIPo3G Business Models

Forecasts & scenarios for wide-area wireless VoIP, for mobile operators & their challengers

By Dean Bubley, November 2007

The report

Disruptive Analysis’ new report, “Evolution of Mobile VoIP: VoIPo3G Business Models” is the most comprehensive analysis available of the future shift of cellular voice services from traditional circuit-based telephony to VoIP.

The convergence of mobile and IP is inevitable. Future 3.5G and 4G networks are moving towards all-IP. Handsets are being equipped with smarter operating systems and full IP communications capabilities. Mobile applications and core networks are being delivered by IMS, NGNs, Web Services and The Internet.

Yet many operators, suppliers and observers are quiet on what this means for full mobile voice and the evolution of person-to-person wireless telephony. While plenty of attention is paid to localised VoIP functions and FMC with VoWLAN, much less focus has been placed on the possibility of true, end-to-end VoIPo3G - and the opportunities for both traditional carriers and newer independent 'over the top' service providers.

This pioneering study provides detailed and thought-provoking argument, together with thorough and methodical quantitative forecasts of the future of mobile packet voice. It assesses both operator and "challenger" business cases. It considers the full value chain from spectrum policy to handsets, discussing motivations for deploying both conventional telephony and 'non-telephony VoIP' over 3G networks. It looks at technical, commercial and user behaviour dynamics that could accelerate or impede growth.

The report identifies gaps in standards for VoIPo3G, and assesses the possibilities for partnership between incumbents and new entrants. It looks at the competitive implications of a multi-year 'window of opportunity' once 3G networks become voice-capable - but before they are fully voice-optimised.

The forecast section is based on a structured methodology and clearly-stated assumptions, and segments the market according to:

  • Network technology (HSPA, LTE, EVDO, UMB)
  • Device type (smartphone, featurephone, laptop)
  • Usage scenario (3rd-party, partner-based, operator primary-line VoIP, other standards-based services such as PTT)
  • Comparison of VoIPo3G vs. VoWLAN
  • Geographic analysis

The report is 210 pages long, and is based on a massive research effort spanning 100's of briefings, meeting and interviews, among a wide cross-spectrum of operators, network infrastructure suppliers, startup VoIP providers, regulators, industry bodies, handsets vendors and software specialists. It includes detailed discussion of market drivers, technology enablers, business models and the roles of key companies & organisations.

The report has been researched & written personally by Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis, author of the Disruptive Wireless blog, and a recognised global authority on FMC, wireless VoIP and mobile broadband.



  • The use of VoIP over 3G networks is inevitable in the medium term, as cellular operators move towards future all-IP systems like LTE & UMB.
  • There are multiple scenarios for interim short-term deployment of VoIPo3G before that point, both for operators and independent VoIP specialists.
  • Operators will deploy VoIP to improve voice capacity, gain synergies from FMC networks and counter competition from WiMAX or other VoIP providers.
  • VoIPo3G will be more important than VoWLAN, for operators and 3rd parties.
  • Disruptive Analysis forecasts 255m active VoIPo3G users by the end of 2012, with the figure dominated by mobile operators’ own 3.5G+ voice services.
  • Despite this growth, penetration will still be below 10% of total global mobile subscribers, and around 20% of all 3G+ users, by 2012.
  • Even where VoIPo3G is deployed, circuit voice will still endure for years. Few users will see all their voice traffic transfer to IP; handovers will be critical.
  • CDMA operators face fewer threats from independent VoIPo3G than their HSPA carrier peers. Carrier VoIP is designed-in from EVDO Rev A onwards.
  • Most 3GPP / UMTS operators will need to wait until at least 2011-12 before starting broad migration of circuit telephony to standardised VoIP. In the interim they will have to compete or partner with pre-standard VoIP players.
  • Operators expecting to deploy LTE networks need to consider gaining prior experience of mobile VoIP. Simultaneously rolling out a new radio technology and a new voice architecture is a huge risk.
  • The key catalysts for independent VoIPo3G are the increasing penetration of smartphones, coupled with the growing availability of flatrate 3G data tariffs.
  • 3G-connected laptops are an important VoIPo3G constituency, as operators’ rival services to home fixed broadband will generally need to support users’ expected applications - including VoIP - to be competitive.
  • In the medium term, operators will drop VoIP-hostile 3G terms-of-service, on the grounds of competition, regulation and difficulty of enforcement.
  • Too much emphasis is placed by 3GPP on unproven ‘multimedia’ telephony concepts rather than ‘plain’ VoIPo3G.
  • It will be more important to embed mobile VoIP into new devices, services or web applications (Voice 2.0) than adding video or other media streams.
  • There is scope for partnership between VoIPo3G innovators and incumbent operators (and other parties), especially on HSPA networks. Initial reticence will be countered by awareness of the threats of outright competition.
  • Operators have sizeable opportunities for standards-based, non-telephony VoIPo3G applications like push-to-talk and person-to-server communications.
  • Although many software and infrastructure vendors are focused on VoWLAN, an increasing proportion are devoting resources to VoIPo3G, although awareness remains weak in sectors like enterprise mobility.
  • Improved indoor coverage of 3G through femtocells may catalyse VoIPo3G.
  • Operator-based VoIPo3G can fit better with prepaid tariffs than VoWLAN.
  • HSPA+ will be a major VoIP platform, especially for operators without sufficient spectrum allocations to roll out LTE.







Published November 2007

210 pages

Summary contents

Highlights & Full Table of Contents & Figures - Download as PDF

Press release

Inquire or buy


Published November 2007

210 pages

Highlights & Full Table of Contents & Figures (PDF)

Press release

Inquire or buy


For more information about obtaining a copy of the report, or contributing to future research in this field, please email information AT

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