T-Mobile rolled out a VoIP play yesterday, and the world yawned. They’ll be competing against cable voip and vonage, but from a wireless bundle angle – in order to get the very inexpensive $10/month voip package you have to be a wireless customer, plus you have to buy their router. But VoIP is dead if you’re not a cable company right? Well maybe yes, maybe no, but I don’t think VoIP is the end-all of this deal. It goes to T-Mobile’s USA strategy and the rollout of their 4G network next year, and this VoIP play is a risk-free sideline.
What interests me is what wholesale VoIP provider T-Mobile is using to provide the service, from local numbers on up to E911. You see, I’ve been hearing rumors of a big wireless backhaul win at Level 3. Not flash in the pan rumors, but bits and pieces over the last 8 months. Lots of inexplicable T1 lines going to towers in lieu of future fiber, management hints, etc – but no names, none at all. It strikes me that a VoIP offering that T-Mobile could bundle with its wireless offerings might be a nice sideline to an overall deal helping T-Mobile build out their 4G network.
And who else could or would do it? Surely not the competition at VZ, T, or S… the strategic situation has changed since T-Mobile last had to build out in the USA, the ILECs are no longer neutral. Amongst the nextgen carriers while they might be able to do the VoIP side, for a major wireless backhaul deal XO just doesn’t have the cash and GLBC doesn’t have the metro fiber. On the other hand, Level 3 can do it all and are a natural partner for someone like T-Mobile here, and they could provide the VoIP service easily – T-Mobile wouldn’t have to invest anything in it and who knows it might work. And Level 3 would surely like to break into the mobile backhaul market in a big way, heck they might even be able to use all that LMDS spectrum they got from Telcove. Nah, that would be too much to ask. But bundling a wholesale VoIP deal with a wireless backhaul deal seems very much like something they would do.
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