Over the last few years, the VoIP industry has seen substantial growth. With that has come a host of new manufacturers, providers, services, and products. While new innovations and expanding technologies are positives, it can be hard for inexperienced and/or new users to stay current and select the appropriate service, provider, product, etc. That being said, how can users stay current when growth is perpetual? According to Infonetics Research, a telecom market research firm, VoIP will experience  revenue growth (both business and residential/SOHO VoIP) of $76.1 billion in 2015. With continued growth appearing imminent, how will users ultimately be affected by an expanding VoIP industry? Will over-saturation eventually lead to quality reduction or a lack of interest? Or, can users simply expect newer innovations faster? While speculation currently reigns supreme, users can expect VoIP to stick around for a while.

The Telecom Industry in the US 2010-2015 by AxVoice Projected growth can lead to an influx of new innovations, new services, and other new offerings; however, chief amongst these new additions is providers. It seems likely that as the service becomes more popular and expands, more and more companies will look to jump on the bandwagon. While this can be beneficial for users, it can also be very harmful. Positively, users will have a host of providers and services to choose from. As a result, service offerings increase while pricing decreases. As more providers offer    the same/similar services and features, providers are likely to expand their portfolio offerings and/or trim their pricing to attract/retain customers. For example, some services require additional hardware. Providers may offer equipment at no extra cost. Currently many providers offer free equipment or free equipment leasing with their service plans; therefore, it isn’t hard to imagine escalation as competition heats up.

Additionally, increased competition can cause providers and manufacturers to produce new innovations. As competition becomes fiercer, companies will look to distinguish themselves from one another. A good way to do this is create cutting edge, quality solutions other providers do not and/or cannot offer. A good example of this can be seen with smartphones. Apple introduced their first iPhone to distinguish themselves from other smartphones. In doing this, the company essentially created the new standard for similar devices. This has already begun to an extent. Providers already pursue a number of different patents for new technologies/applications. For example, 8×8, Inc has had a total of 86 patents awarded to them. Also,   acquisitions and joint ventures are formed in attempts to extend service and feature and ultimately distinguish providers’ services.

Despite these positives, increased growth can also churn some disadvantages for users. Increased competition can spurn misinformation, cut-rate services and quality loss, and ultimately stagnation. Users can end up feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of services, products, and providers at their disposal—i.e. too much too soon can be harmful. First off, with an increasing number of providers, users are likely to wonder which service is best, what are the differences, why this solution, etc. While more experienced users are in a better position to answer these questions—and to root out inferior services—newer, less knowledgeable users may select lesser providers/services/products as a result of their inexperience. Subsequently, with a lackluster solution/provider, it’s likely that users will be under-whelmed with VoIP, which ultimately can lead to a drop off of interest in the service. Additionally, as mentioned above, companies may expand their offerings. While this can be beneficial for users, expanding services may stretch providers too thin—which can ultimately result in quality loss.

A large advantage of VoIP stems from extended feature and use as well as greater mobility. With this, many services allow for greater integration with mobile devices—i.e. many providers offer mobile apps/solutions. While mobile service carriers have a unique relationship with VoIP service, it’s important that users retain their mobile data plans moving forward. With this symbiosis, VoIP is likely to receive a boost in popularity as mobile devices and their networks continue to advance. ABI Research, an intelligence company specializing in global tech markets, estimates that LTE traffic will grow 207% in 2013. This expansion is ultimately fueled by the increased use of mobile apps—which VoIP currently has and implores; therefore, it seems a likely aid in boosting VoIP usage. LTE is a good fit for VoIP as it leaves room for connectivity efficiency, future developments, and cost efficiency. As LTE traffic grows, providers will likely develop extended/new functionalities for mobile platforms leading to even further increased mobility for users.

The future of VoIP is speculative at best; however, it’s safe to suggest the service will eventually come to be a primary component telecommunications. Though many of these benefits/disadvantages are already present (to an extent), nothing is set in stone. In fact, disadvantages could be remedied moving forward. With this uncertainty in mind, the best way users can prepare themselves is by familiarizing themselves with the service as it is currently; therefore, as it grows and expands they will be better equipped to distinguish the best solutions/providers for their uses.

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