Are we entering mobile VoIP's heyday?

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A report issued this week by Juniper Research certainly has a breathtaking prediction--1 billion mobile VoIP subscribers by 2017, or one in seven mobile subscribers.

Anthony Cox, the Juniper analyst who wrote the report, said the mobile VoIP market is getting a "second wind" because of network technology upgrades, greater competition and the decision by telcos to join the VoIP party (see related article, this issue).

But users sign up for VoIP because they don't have to pay much, if anything, for voice service, right? So how do you make money if people aren't paying?

Well, companies are getting creative in making money off of VoIP, Cox notes. Some are opening their APIs to third parties to generate revenues. Others are using advertising and premium services to make money.

Some recent developments support this rosy prediction for mobile VoIP. VoIP provider Rebtel this week launched a platform that enables app developers to develop new VoIP apps for iOS and Android smartphones.

In addition, mobile enterprise communications specialist Research in Motion made available this week its VoIP and IM app for Blackberry 7 on its App World store.

What does this mean for VoIP in the enterprise? As many recent surveys have noted, BYOD is taking flight in the enterprise and many of those personally owned mobile devices have VoIP software loaded on them.

A report by In-Stat last year predicted that business mobile VoIP users would increase tenfold over the next five years, with IP PBX users accounting for the majority of business mobile VoIP usage.

Factors attracting business users to mobile VoIP include the "ability to take the desktop phone experience with you, the ability to utilize the benefits of IP-based communication features, a cheaper international long-distance cost, an easy implementation path and better indoor coverage where cellphone reception has historically been poor," noted Amy Cravens, a senior analyst with In-Stat.

The move toward 4G VoIP services will no doubt prove attractive for enterprise customers. In fact, Infonetics Research predicts that global 4G VoIP subscriber numbers will reach 300,000 this year.

And let's not forget that the new Windows Phone 8, which Microsoft is pitching to the enterprise user as well as the consumer, has Skype integrated into the smartphone.

Mobile VoIP is likely to attract the enterprise user as well as the consumer. The mobile VoIP market is changing and enterprises need to change along with it. -Fred