TV-Based Local Services Beat VoIP?

One way for the telcos to beat back free or cheap Voice over IP services (VoIP) is to get away from their sole focus on the phone and move to a feature-rich, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) platform, complete with local directory, community and news services.

Amdocs, a leading telco integrator, certainly sees things this way. Amdocs Marketing Director Eitan Gelbaum said the key to winning the war with VoIP will be to transfrom the television into the family’s communications headquarters. He noted that 150 telcos worldwide have indicated that they’ll move to an IPTV platform within two or three years.

In Amdocs’ vision, cell phones and other devices will be fully integrated – along with telco-based information services, such as directories, e-commerce and entertainment.

Speaking at the recent Kelsey Group conference in Denver, Gelbaum showed off the company’s “Orca” prototype, which provides instant access to directory information, news, shopping and other services. Orca also integrates SMS, Caller ID and cell phone programming. “It is ‘Bring Your Own Device,'” said Gelbaum.

It is hard to say whether “Orca” is a genuine product, or just some vaporware that Amdocs has been asked to dummy up to show that telcos have a future. It is also futile to assume that VoIP providers will sit in the vacuum of today’s technology. We see that Dane Madsen’s Commoca and other VoIP services are moving forward with feature-rich services. But it is, nevertheless, a stimulating vision.

It is also interesting to see telcos beginning to think about their local services as differentiators. In the end, they may be sorry that they’ve spun off their directory services.

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