Google seems to have partnered with major operators including Level3, Neustar and Global crossing. Most of these companies are probably helping them with PSTN interconnectivity, rate center coverage and LNP, CNAM types of services.
Obviously Google is not looking to create its own telecom network. The intensions are quite obvious that they want to include telecom into their cloud that at present does pretty much everything. Now whether they want to include end user voice/video access or just remain focused on the cloud intelligence is debatable. First, if they do offer end user voice access, they will become a VoIP provider like Skype (why not buy Skype?). That will invite rules, regulations and scuffles with telcos that Google don’t want to get into. Second, it takes a while to build a robust customer support platform. It took years for Skype to be where it is today.
However it won’t be surprising if Google integrates its voice service with existing voice and video chat service. Then tightly integrate Gmail with Gvoice. Build Gvoice add-ons with its chrome browser and android OS. Enable click to call on Blogger, Orkut, and the newly hyped Gwave. The possibilities are endless for the cash rich company. And there are no apparent reasons why it won’t pursue those.
In my last post I purposely left out the discussion regarding the Google Voice’s support of actual end clients; as it’s a whole new discussion. Also I want to make it clear, that Google Voice service will ultimately drive more traffic for carriers and put more dimes into the pocket to the telcos. Who stand to lose out (not immediately though) are the companies which play in the cloud hosted services industry, either for consumers or enterprises (if Google apps can do it, so can Google voice).
Not many voice providers seem to be worried about the recently launched Google voice service. It’s probably not in anyone’s interest to raise a concern and appear fazed, because the impact is so apparent that there is not point panicking over it. And it’s too late to wait. Just within months, Google is claiming it has over 1.419 million Google Voice subscribers. And half of them use the service actively. Mind that the Google voice service is still beta and available only through references.
The service which is essentially free provides the end user with a telephone number along with a pot load of call routing intelligence features. Users can then point their Google voice number to any of their other numbers, cell, home, office etc. and while doing so make use of the cool routing features that the service offers.
Traditionally end user would pay their local phone provider for each feature (For example: call forwarding, voicemail, caller id etc.) and most of them were expensive. VoIP phone providers started offering these and other advanced (VoIP) features with their bundled offerings. (Simultaneous ringing, visual voicemail, call hunting, web portal etc). They used these as a service differentiator for their services and offered them at attractive pricing. Google voice will take that all away, making it available to all for free. If the Google voice service works as claimed, not only the traditional phone providers are in trouble, but the VoIP providers will also face the doom. While some providers are scrambling to figure out the next big service differentiator (unless they figure out a way to offer their service for subzero prices); some still prefer to wait and watch.
Last week AT&T filed a complaint with FCC alleging that the Google voice blocks access to certain numbers which is against the FCC ruling. Google defends saying that it’s not a traditional phone service provider and should not be subjected to the same rulings. What FCC decides remains to be seen, and even if it rules against Google, it’s just a drop in its bucket. But for AT&T, this complaint is probably a way of welcoming the newest member to its hundred year old club.