SHIRKY -- Clay Shirky presents a compelling view of why firms like Skype may succeed in turfing Eircom from its dominent telco position by replacing that system of voice calling with something so very this century. Eircom is interested in VoIP, but would never bring it to mrket because doing so means admitting to shareholders, regulators, and customers that both their monopoly strangehold and artificially high voice revenues are going away. As a result, expect that Eircom lobbies the Communications and Enterprise Minister, the Comreg and IBEC that important compliance guidelines need to be screwed into Irish space. Set those standards down first then take a break of a decade before offering VoIP services to customers.
Shirky thinks this strategy will blindside Eircom.
VoIP isn't a service, it's just a set of protocols, meaning that competitors don't have to set themselves up as upstart phone companies to deploy VoIP.
Irish activists could totally trump the Eircom card by advocating the replacement of the phone system by data only or by wireless broadband with a VoIP handset in a sitting room.
I have written about Skype in several Irish Examiner articles. Wired gave Skype paes of coverage too, with lucid explanations of Skype's free two-way voice conversations over the internet between users who have downloaded and installed software onto their computer.
Skype offers services that Eircom would never have like user-defined conference calling, and clickable voice calls from Web pages. Shirky points out that Skype would posit
We no more need a phone company than we need a text company. Email and weblogs and IM all use text -- why not use voice in a similar variety of applications, and with a similar lack of commercial bottleneck?
Eircom's brand placement is the strongest defence it has against VoIP. Rural communities still feature more phone boxes than mobile phone masts. The average citizen cannot fathom how voice would travel from county to continent without phone lines. Polite Eircom lobbyists would paint VoIP as a parasite technology. As Shirky hypothesizes, "Isn't VoIP simply a parasite technology? The assumption that by undermining inflated voice revenues, VoIP will destroy the DSL business as well."
Whether Ireland's market economists can stamp out that argument depends on getting the ear of people who sit inside IBEC, IIA and SFA. These industry bodies need to understand that Eircom can singlehandedly reduce Irish competitiveness by stifling the growth of VoIP services. Ireland needs a system that has no dialing, no phone numbers, no phones, and no call charges.
Part of the remit of the Irish Communications Regulator is to foster business. This has translated into ensuring the playing pitch favours existing providers. ComReg also resists user demands and always endures citizen unrest for a few years before issuing guidelines. The only way to offset this tendency is to encourage people to adopt VoI in large numbers, using the Internet for phone calls.
Clay Shirky -- "VoIP - Plan A vs Plan B"