In my round-up of Nokia N95 vox-pops I mentioned the depressing news that certain UK carriers had stripped out the handset’s VOIP support, obviously seeing that as a threat to their own stranglehold on voice calls. Well, if you needed any further evidence take a look at this video of an operator-modified N95:
Read on for more thoughts and a challenge…
From the point of view of the carrier it’s a reasonable act; they’ve traditionally made their money from, well, running a mobile telephone service, so to include a way of circumnavigating much of those profits on a handset they’re subsidising seems madness. However it’s also indecently short-sighted; not only will it fuel the purchase of SIM-free handsets by the sort of high-spending individuals the networks need in order to keep profits up (and simultaneously lose them the contract tie-in which keeps such heavy users locked to the carrier), it also fails to acknowledge the direction everyone else is moving in.
Operators will be left behind if they continue to refuse to accept that attitudes towards communication – particularly VOIP – are changing fast. Right now their stance seems to be “if you can’t beat it, block it”, whereas what they really need to do is compete; it seems fair to assume that many users would happily sign up to contracts where a mixture of VOIP and traditional calling is seamlessly switched between in order to preserve the cheapest method of communication. It’s well within the scope of the networks to then offer some degree of value-add which makes setting up a third-party VOIP solution less attractive.
I’ve personally been eligible for a handset upgrade for a couple of years now, but I keep swapping between unlocked phones. Part of that is to avoid tie-in and give me a great bargaining tool when it comes to disputes; they find it difficult to argue when I threaten to cancel the contract and walk away to a competitor. So far they’ve offered me – and all other users – paltry reasons (a few free SMS messages here, a couple of free minutes there) to resign the contract; come on, guys, you know you need to do better these days. Who’ll be the first network to step up to the challenge?