CallVantage Only Has 53,000 Subscribers

from the not-so-good... dept

With all of the hype (and advertising) surrounding AT&T’s CallVantage VoIP offering, you would think that they would have been able to sign up a few more than 53,000 subscribers by the end of last year. Considering that Vonage is claiming 15,000 new subscribers every week and Time Warner’s VoIP offering is getting at least 11,000, to have only around 50,000 a year or so after launch, is pretty weak. Apparently, AT&T has not been able to get the message out. With SBC claiming that CallVantage will be a major part of their consumer strategy post-merger, some within SBC may want to rethink that with these numbers being known. It’s quite likely that many within SBC are quite resistant to the idea of VoIP, since they’ll view it as eating away their landline business (which is silly, because if it’s not themselves eating away, someone else will eat it for them). However, this is yet another indicator that the demand for VoIP still isn’t as strong as many believe. The problem, though, isn’t in the product, but in how it’s being sold. AT&T focused on selling VoIP. The average person doesn’t care about VoIP. They care about price and features. If AT&T advertised it as cheap phone service with many more features (both of which VoIP gives them) they’d be in much better shape. Instead, it sounds like they’ve stalled out and won’t be advertising it any more at all. If they’re going to give up on that, the least they could do is open up CallVantage as a platform and let others develop useful applications on top of their phone service. That would help drive demand for the service, without AT&T having to do anything. Instead, of course, AT&T will think like a telco, and look to lock stuff up and only allow their own applications to work with CallVantage.

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Comments on “CallVantage Only Has 53,000 Subscribers”

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DV Henkel-Wallace says:

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If AT&T advertised VOIP as cheap phone service with many more features (both of which VoIP gives them) they’d be in much better shape…open up CallVantage as a platform and let others develop useful applications on top of their phone service.

Mike, you should be writing in the subjunctive. VOIP could provide more features than POTS, but in reality at the moment it’s little more than a cell phone with a tether. The VOIP carriers are all afraid of being commoditized and so are trying to duplicate the failing “walled garden” business model pioneered by the mobile carriers.

The irony is that they have a huge advantage (in the US and selected other countries with equally brain-damaged regulatory frameworks) over the POTS carriers by dint of being classified “data services” and not a “telecommunications services”. This they will squander by making themselves look as much like the old telephone networks as they can, and eventually dragging the broken regulatory framework with them.

The real danger is that they will poison the well: some true VOIP pioneer will be unable to get off the ground (via some mutant Asterix implementation perhaps) because the law will end up preventing it.

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