Recent reports have suggested that Facebook is currently testing features for its iOS and Android messaging apps that would enable users to hold voice conservations with each other or leave voice messages over an Internet connection.
I believe that such a move could provide a significant boost for the global VoIP market, bringing the technology into the consumer mainstream, but I am sceptical of the social media giant’s ability to usurp established operators in the enterprise sector.
While the use of cloud-based telephony systems is becoming more widespread in organisations, VoIP calling has remained something of a niche activity in the consumer sector.
Services like Skype have been around a while, and have been a hit with people who make lots of international calls, but with most consumers having plenty of call minutes included in their monthly mobile tariffs and VoIP quickly eating up data allowances, they have never really taken the domestic mass market by storm.
With over a billion users worldwide, Facebook could stand a strong chance of establishing VoIP calling in the mainstream consumer market. But the enterprise is a different matter entirely.
Organisations deploying cloud-based telephone systems will continue to turn to specialist operators for the foreseeable future: they need a single service that integrates mobile devices and desk-based phones with a single number, and that enables their employees to present a consistent and professional corporate image. A social network simply doesn’t fit the bill.
Equally, non-specialist service providers are not going to be able to supply the same kind of comprehensive and rich list of features that IP telephony operators can provide for their customers to improve workforce productivity.
Finally, companies like Facebook would be unable to deliver savings on the same scale as the specialist IP telephony operators: by combining voice and data services on the same tariff with a single supplier, organisations can save up to 60 per cent compared to traditional phone systems.