Rebtel muses on future of mobile operators as data demands soar


Shrinking margins on calls and text messages will prompt mobile operators to turn their backs on voice services and concentrate on mobile data instead.

This is the view put forward by Andreas Bernstrm, chief executive of mobile VoIP service provider Rebtel, who told IT Pro the days when operators could make 3,000 per cent margin on a phone call are well and truly gone.

"There is lots more competition and the margins [operators] used to make on messaging and voice are just not there," he said.

I think we're going to see a faster switch to data-based business models from now on.

"At the same time, the demand for mobile data is doubling every year and they need to build out their infrastructure [to take advantage] of that."

Bernstrm said operators are already responding to this trend, but claims we can expect to see them moving out of the voice and minutes space faster than before.

"They've been holding on with gritted teeth...but I think we're going to see a faster switch to data-based business models [from them now]...and in the long-term that should prove to be a good business move for them."

Rebtel allows end users to make low cost international calls using their smartphones and PCs, and claims to be the world's second largest mobile VoIP provider after Skype.

The firm's customers can also make free mobile calls to other Rebtel users.

Bernstrm said the company's services are becoming increasingly popular with business users, particularly SMBs and start-ups, because of how cheap it is to use.

"We're considerably cheaper than Skype...and their mobile solution is a little clunkier [than Rebtel's], because it was built for PCs and then transferred to mobiles," he said.

"We can use telephone numbers and names, which is what people have stored in their [mobile] phonebooks, [whereas] Skype uses a buddy list. If I want to get in touch with someone, I need to know what their Skype ID is and that can hold [communications] up."

Bernstrm has some sympathy for its arch-rival, following its recent security scare, which prompted Skype to suspend its password reset function over concerns it could be used to by hackers to hijack users' accounts.

"We are all digital companies that are storing bits of data that can be very personal in nature...Skype is enormous, so there's always going to be a lot of interest [in hacking it]," he said.

"We encrypt our data...but we also try to hold very little information about our customers.

So, if we were hacked, there's a limit to the amount of damage that could be done," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.