Voice as a Product or Service

Aswath Rao posts a stimulating perspective of the juxtaposition of the ideal Stupid Network and the reality of business practices & marketing tactics. His thoughts were ignited by a string of press releases about new video conferencing / communications capabilities now/soon available from Vonage, Packet8, or VoicePulse, etc.

He argues, rightfully so, that IP-based voice and video phones are merely products, not services. The services are in fact:

Directory service: the service provider informs the caller of the callee’s reachability address.

NAT traversal: the service provider facilitates NAT/Firewall traversal either by using UDP hole punching technique or by forcing the traffic pass through a network node.

The service provider carries the traffic on a QoS enabled network that is appropriate for the service.

There is no effective difference between services needed for video packets or voice packets, other than potentially improved bandwidth QoS. But, marketing and pricing does not necessarily follow the same lines and technnical evolution. Take SunRocket's approach, for example.

We argue that pricing for services will become a la carte (products being virtually irrelevant) -- improved QoS being one of them (in addition to directory services, non-repudiation, device discovery, presence, voice, video, data, content, media, etc). Will I have a choice for Gold, Silver, or Bronze service differentiation? If so, I want Platinum, baby!

This argument has been preached before, but am not sure I bite on it just yet. Are consumers going to be able to adapt? The better question to ask, I guess, is: when will our habits change? Will it take a generation? Possibly less, it sure did for Internet service, moving from WYSIWYG America Online to slightly more complex DSL or Cable.
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