The FT’s article this weekend “The end of the line for landline” predicts the demise of landline. There is no question about the rapid decline of landline usage among consumers with smart phones and also larger businesses with sophisticated Internet-based video and calling devices.
Perhaps this is less the case with small businesses as they are still very dependent on landlines in order to run their alarm systems, broadband and card processing systems.
But the more interesting question is whether it is the end of the mobile phone call as we know it (over mobile GSM networks). Last week, after countless requests from relatives and friends, I finally downloaded an application called Viber so we could all talk for free on our smartphones. Over the last few days, I have seen another 10 people from my contacts join Viber. Viber notifies you when one of your contacts join the network.
I have to admit this is one of the most wonderful applications I have on my iPhone. It works seamlessly with Apple’s software and in fact looks and feels almost like my normal iPhone features – ie. contacts, text, call history, etc. All my contacts that have Viber are automatically included in my contacts, something most other phone apps have not managed to do. In short, it feels no different than making a paid call via Vodafone’s network, only my screen turns purple.
Best of all, my calls are all free if i am in Wi-Fi range which means free most of the time at home or at work. And when not connected, the application seamlessly transfers to 3G data network which means better coverage surprisingly and calls costing a fraction now. All this begs the question whether this spells the end for the traditional mobile phone call. And what does it all mean for landline?
Whatever the outcome, small businesses are bound to benefit from such disruptive technology changes. Prices are bound to come down while service levels improve by leaps and bounds.