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Google: VoIP Strategy is Falling into Place

Marketwatch is reporting that Google’s 8K, filed yesterday, reveals a pact with Florida-based VoIP Inc.  According to the documents:

Google agreed on Sept. 1 to test voice-over-Internet-protocol, or VOIP, services offered by VoIP’s VoiceOne Communications unit on Sept. 1. Then in October, Google moved into implementation phase, buying VoIP’s services and putting in place direct Internet links between the two companies at multiple locations.

CEO Steve Ivester also commented that the company is developing services for Google, which he declined to elaborate upon.

ZDNet’s Russell Shaw has done a bit more spadework, which you can read in this excellent posting on his blog.  And TMCNet’s Robert Liu reports that VoIP Inc. is building out to accomodate additional traffic from Google.   

"In October, a series of purchase orders were issued for the production of VoIP traffic to be interconnecting with other carriers. As a result, VoIP Inc. “anticipates that material sales of its service will commence during 2006.”

CNET reports that Google has said that the buildout is for Google’s Click to Call service

"We are working with VoIP, Inc. on a click-to-call advertising test which we began late last year," a Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail response to questions. "We have no further details to share at this time." 

Meanwhile, Light Reading’s Mark Sullivan has also done a thorough job of investigating this story. 

It all gives one pause.  Why is Google partnering with VoIP Inc on the one hand, and buying wads of dark fibre on the other?  Why do a deal for terminations, and then have a scrap with Ed Whitacre of SBC over differentiated bandwidth charges?

It all goes back to how Google, and the other portals, are approaching the voice market, in my opinion.  In the Voice 2.0 Manifesto, I argue that the world of the future will consist of access providers, identity / directory businesses, and applications.   Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have all made public statements that they do not wish to be in the access business.  They’re simply not interested in selling DIDs, or dealing with the regulatory oversight that selling DIDs implies.  All three of these players are playing for the brass ring of identity, and the applications which can support identity.

Certainly we’re seeing a lot of early evidence of that.  Example:  both Microsoft and Yahoo sell branded versions of their products through major incumbent carriers.  Here in Canada, MSN is called Sympatico/MSN (Sympatico is Bell Canada’s ISP), and the business is run by Sympatico.  In the UK, Yahoo is similarly partnered with BT. 

The future of the incumbents is to be tomorrow’s shopkeepers.  Just as Egghead and CompUSA were Microsoft’s channel a decade ago, BT and Bell Canada and Verizon will be the channel of tomorrow.  The incumbents core competencies are billing and running networks.  They will be the distribution and credit arms of the content providers, whether that content be web pages, or VoIP traffic.

And Google?  It’s partnering for access with VoIP Inc.  And it’s waging a war of words over distribution with SBC.  But for all of the posturing that the incumbents are doing, this argument is little more than a very public negotiation over the cost of shelving.  Google has the trump card — it’s called dark fiber.

Other coverage from the Blogosphere: Mark Evans, Al Bredenburg

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