Uncommon Wisdom

May 4 2009   1:24PM GMT

BT sends signal on future voice services

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

A securities analyst has reported that BT may be slow-rolling 21CN and may in particular be rethinking its notion of migrating from TDM/PSTN voice to VoIP, at least in the near term. The information came out as it related to the impact that a VoIP cutback might have on Sonus. Obviously it could be significant.

What could be more significant is why this might happen. On one hand, the TDM plant is more depreciated than ever, and so barriers to replacement are falling. Yet there’s nothing as cheap as something you own that has no residual value to write off against your top line. Balanced against this is that operating costs for aging equipment typically grow. So at some point, you must assume BT would have to change.

The most logical starting point here is that it makes no sense to do something that involves TDM-to-IP conversion; you are forced to invest in the gateways. But if you have any TDM circuits, you can’t avoid that. Thus, we think that the likely issue here is a migration to packet voice for wireline and wireless, eliminating circuit technology in one sweep.

That would imply, in our view, that BT might synchronize three things before moving forward: 4G/LTE, FMC/femtocells and wireline migration to VoIP in some form. The question is what form. There are indicators that a P2P voice model, or at any rate something other than a SIP model, might be cheaper to deploy. Given Skype would likely offer voice services on any OTT-ready smartphone and over all home broadband, it makes no sense to spend a lot on your own voice program; you will have to match the Skype price or lose.

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