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.