How the Skype spinoff could change the market

Can Skype become a legitimate force as a voice service provider?

Blocking Skype all together is unlikely, says Infonetics Research analyst Diane Myers, because companies such as Google and Apple have been putting pressure on carriers to not wall off their networks and to let their users access any application they wish.

"IPhone and Google's Android platform are really breaking down barriers for traditional telecom companies," she says. "What they're interested in doing is the polar opposite of what telecom companies have been traditionally interested in."

And besides, Lazar notes, it would only take one smaller carrier such as T-Mobile offering to host Skype over its data network to foil the big incumbents' competitive advantage in keeping Skype off their own networks. This means that the telcos will at some point have to come up with their own IP-based voice services that will compete with Skype in offering lower-cost calls than traditional cellular networks.

"The carriers want to avoid becoming 'dumb pipes' that make money on monthly access charges but nothing else," Jopling says. "Without question the carriers will drag their feet... but eventually they'll appreciate that they have to compete with Skype head on."

While Skype could provide headaches for carriers in the consumer markets, it is less likely to have such an immediate impact on enterprise markets. For one thing, the fact that Skype does not own any of the pipes it rides over means that it can't section off a certain chunk of bandwidth to ensure call quality, which is more critical in the enterprise market than in the consumer market. And despite the fact that the company is developing an enterprise service that would allow business users to connect Skype with corporate IP PBXs, Jopling says it has a long way to go before it has both the security and QoS features that enterprises need for their voice systems.

"It's one thing if you're a consumer and you're calling your brother in Mumbai," he says. "In that regard, Skype is a very inexpensive way of making calls. But in an enterprise it's more important from a security perspective that when you open up your network to the likes of Skype you can also increase your risk." Myers expresses a similar view and says that Skype has a long way to go in adding security features before it becomes a trusted enterprise product.

"In terms of the enterprise market, I don't think a lot of carriers are losing sleep over Skype," she says. "If I were an enterprise, then a lot would have to happen for me to use Skype for my [Session Initiation Protocol] trunking."

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