With all the advantages of VoIP there is still one drawback — it cannot give you total wireless phone communication the way that cell phones do. Cell phones and VoIP seem to be two separate worlds. True – you can have wireless Internet connections (including VoIP) with Wi-Fi hot spots, but they are of no use to your cellar phone – or are they?
In fact, dual mode phones are already on the market. A few companies (including Motorola) have introduced cell phones which automatically switch to VoIP when they detect a WiFi hotspot. This type of device is sure to be popular with consumers who will benefit from the reduced costs of VoIP, but it is likely to be less than enthusiastically adopted by cellular phone companies who stand to lose considerable profits if the numbers of cell phone calls are reduced.
Industry analysts, however, predict this kind of service will be widespread within the next five years. Cellular phone companies will have no choice but to offer plans which combine VoIP and cellular otherwise they will lose business to companies that step in to fill the void.
The next step after cell/VoIP integration might be the replacement of cell networks with wireless VoIP. A new wireless technology called WiMax is in the works – city-wide wireless networks that operate at much faster speeds than what is available today. Such a network would allow anyone in its range to use a VoIP wireless phone. This technology could also be used to transmit video and audio possibly replacing or augmenting services like video rentals and radio.
WiMax is currently in the testing stage with more than 100 trials taking place around the world. It sounds like a great idea, but it may cause disruptions within a number of industries including movie theatres, DVD distributors and traditional phone companies such as Globex Telecom— all of which stand to lose if this technology becomes common place.
It’s pretty hard to hold back technological innovation, though. New technology usually presents challenges (and opportunities) to existing industries. The phone companies and entertainment industries will face a challenge but could potentially thrive in the new WiMax environment if they find the proper niche. For example, faster broadband will likely make VoIP video phones a common item. There could be many other unforeseen applications to this new technology.
Another future trend to watch out for is the possibility of free Internet telephony. After all, we do not pay for regular data transmission over the Internet, so why are we paying VoIP service providers $15 or $20 per month? Voice data is the same as any other data that travels over the Internet. Some observers predict that as VoIP gains wider acceptance and is more universally adopted, monthly fees for telephone service will disappear.
Of course, there would still be a charge for the basic Internet connection, but if bandwidth continues to grow, a single Internet connection could be used for telephone, television, as well as e-mail and surfing the net.