What do you do if a new generation of technology is emerging which will kill your cash cow? It's an old story in the tech business, and you really only have two choices: fight innovation, or embrace it.
T-Mobile is fighting at the moment. They're refusing to connect calls on Truphone, arguing that Truphone isn't shouldering its share of the load of managing and maintaining the mobile network, because it owns no towers, no radios, no… well, you get the picture. According to Truphone CEO James Tagg "T-Mobile will argue that it is not 'blocking' Truphone but is merely negotiating on price. T-Mobile receives 35p per minute from its customers but is offering only 0.21p per minute to Truphone even when Truphone's costs are 9p per minute to terminate the call." It appears that they've acknowledged that they can't fight VoIP.
As desparate as T-Mobile's move to block calls to Truphone is, it appears even more confusing given the recent T-Venture investment in VoIP service provider Jajah. The truth is that mobile carriers are scared witless of being reduced to nothing more than a dumb pipe. Deutsche Telekom (parent to both companies) seems to be directing T-Mobile to fight a rearguard action, while T-Venture looks for a way forward in this new reality.
My prediction? As painful as this is for Truphone, they will ultimately prevail. Logically applications and pipes are separate, and open markets demand interoperability. No doubt the smart people at Deutsche Telekom know this too, and are simply chumming the water to keep the sharks occupied while they finish formulating a strategy.