Early purveyors of VoIP (Voice over IP) promised great things and many have built respectable businesses. Still, we hang onto the networks of old (PSTN) which come with baggage and metered minutes remain.
We are in a “mobile first” world now, where mobile messenger applications reign supreme eg. WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat etc. For good or for bad, these new chat apps are forever changing the way we think of communications. The next generation expects a certain level of service that comes for free, and that will become the new norm.
This new “free mobile communication” mantra can come at a price for providers.
Traditional VoIP networks are primarily built using client-server methodologies, which means the calls (signalling at least) and text messages pass through a server. That server must be hosted somewhere and that data transfer cost must be accounted for, somehow. More and more chat apps are supporting Voice and Video calls, the overhead involved in providing for those features on the back end is not trivial.
If there were a way to provide these features without having the calls and messages go through a server, it should be much cheaper (or free) to deliver those features to the users. P2P (peer to peer) communication services allow providers to cut costs and deliver rich communication features more affordably. We know this to be true because we have built countless VoIP networks on traditional client-server technology and also with P2P technology, in this case Open Peer.
Keep in mind a P2P-centric network does not take into consideration interoperability with the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), so that I can call my mom and dad for instance. From a smartphone users perspective, this is not much of a problem. Data / wifi networks are nearly boundless. Just ask yourself “When was the last time you weren’t connected?” As a provider, the moment we bridge P2P with PSTN, we increase our costs enormously and lose all the rich features in the process.
Is there a way we get the benefits of P2P and still interoperate with the networks of yesterday?
If you want the real benefits that a Peer-to-Peer communications network will provide, you must get past the idea of interop with the PSTN. There are plenty of providers out there who refuse or simply cannot make the move to P2P due to their business model or the like and to you I say, “Very sorry for your troubles”.
The middle ground.
Leveraging P2P in your network where it makes sense (mobile) and using gateways to negotiate to the PSTN is certainly possible and we have helped network providers do just that. This helps them to prepare for an OTT (Over The Top) model that is more P2P centric and efficient while still servicing their customer of old.
When will metered minutes truly become a thing of the past? When the carriers wake up? God help us all.
If you are a modern mobile developer working on iOS or Android, you can say “goodbye” to metered minutes today.