Google Voice Cometh

June 20th, 2009 by · 10 Comments

So it looks like Google Voice will be publicly available soon.  Reports have it that they have reserved 1M phone numbers with voip wholesaler Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT, news, filings), and there’s no reason to do that unless you’re planning to cut the ribbon and open the doors.  However, I’m still trying to figure out what effects Google’s expected launch of this product will have on the market:

[poll id=”26″]

The idea behind Google Voice is to add some unity to all the various devices we use these days to communicate – home phones, cell phones, email, text messaging, etc.  Some claim the services has changed the way they communicate at a fundamental level.  I have to admit I’m tempted to give it a go myself, given the time I spend travelling and between various phone numbers and devices.

On the other hand, I sometimes look at it this way.  Before Google Voice, there were a bunch of devices and accounts with various service providers.  After Google Voice, there will be exactly the same bunch of devices and accounts with various service providers.  The only new things seems to be a) a free account with Google, and b) and happier, more empowered users of all those devices.  Not a bad thing of course, but economically the effect is not immediately disruptive.

On another note, several have asked me if Google Voice could be behind the big contract Level 3 disclosed last week.  My feeling is that it isn’t related.  Why?  Quite simply, the 20 year term.  You don’t sign up for a 20 year contract for anything related to voice, it’s just the wrong timescale.  There is a tendency to think that a big company must mean a big contract, but it doesn’t really work that way.  The traffic associated with voice – even huge amounts of voice – just isn’t enough to require a huge infrastructure deal.   Google can self provide most of Google Voice and is likely choosing Level 3 VoIP services in an a la carte fashion.  Even if Google Voice catches on big, it will be a long time before it requires this sort of opex – a long term pre-purchase doesn’t make sense in the context of a product that may or may not catch on.

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10 Comments So Far

  • Bruce Wagner says:

    Oh Yes!! Have your Google Voice number also ring in on your Skype-In number… You now have a global internet phone with free in & out calls!!!!

    • Marc Abrams says:

      Well, that’s missing the point. There are many, many service providers and companies and users that provide and subscribe to paid individual services offerings like find me follow me, conferencing and fax services, which generally cost between $10 and $70 per month and are inferior to the GoogleVoice features today.

      There will likely also be a wave of consolidation driven be disruptive effects. And, integrated with GoogleApps, it will also really screw up Unified Communications vendors like Nortel and Siemens because now there is NO work to integrate into the enterprise.

      Speaking of Wave, it would make an excellent UC host for GoogleVoice 🙂

      The size of the L3 deal means Google is thinking big and worldwide. L3 is one of the very few service providers with a worldwide footprint and a voice optimized network.

      Can’t wait for this 🙂


      • Rob Powell says:

        Hmm, so the disruption would be in the UC space? I’ll have to think about that one. But Nortel has already gone where none of this is likely to matter, but there are others of course.

  • Frank A. Coluccio says:

    Ordinarily, I’d agree that VoIP traffic could fall into the category of noise and ride underneath and in between Google’s normal data channels unnoticed on the utilization charts. However, UC connotes an entirely different set of parameters, given the introduction of video -conferencing and -chat, and other m-m and data bearing capabilities, so its nascent appetite for b-w at this time is still highly speculative at best. Still, I learned from some well-placed sources within Google about a year ago that they’re looking to source most of their bandwidth-provisioning and transmission facilities work to the outside, at least for some time to come. The exception to this of course is where no other sourcing is possible – e.g., along submarine routes where it’s entered into consortia agreements. My info is dated, however. I’m merely here speculating along with everyone else.

    • Rob Powell says:

      But all those videoconferencing and data bearing capabilities are still on the drawing board. The L3 contract is for $140M over the next four years… paying for local phone numbers and local number portability?

  • intheknow says:

    L3 isn’t the only DID provider for Google Voice and likely won’t even have the majority of the traffic when all is said and done

  • carlk says:

    In years, it has been a long time; however, I recall (3) accumulating vast DID numbers in anticipation of this VOIP world which GOOG is embracing. Hopefully, Rob will shed some light on the magnitude of those numbers which were previously purchased (assets), relative to the number “potentials” relating to the definition below. How does this relate to 100M US households, for example? One would think the lions share of this business would go to the right company with the right services-cost effective-located in the right locations at the right time, like Goog’s potential plan is indicating today. Aren’t we still ONE local phone call away from 90 percent of the US population? Who else can facilitate providing DID’s to the majority of users domestically? How does (3) fare overseas at the same time?

  • carlk says:


    Direct inward dialing service has similar relevance for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications. To reach users with VoIP phones, DID numbers are assigned to a communications gateway connected by a trunk to the public switched telephone network and the VoIP network. The gateway routes and translates calls between the two networks for the VoIP user. Calls originating in the VoIP network will appear to users on the PSTN as originating from one of the assigned DID numbers.

  • Frank A. Coluccio says:

    I’m just doing a bit of musing here as I’m reading through some of these excellent replies. Somehow the use of PSTN-like constructs doesn’t strike me as Google’s style. I’m thinking that G is more likely to pursue a bifurcated approach to voice: Traditional and social-net based. By this I mean part ss7-dependent, in which case DIDs would be apropos, and part iptel-like, i.e., true Internet telephony comprised of pre-PSTN H.323 and SIP, being more dependent on ENUM and other Internet sanctioned URIs as opposed to being solely keyed to E.164-like identifiers. Like I said, just musing, but I would be interested in other opinions concerning this notion.

  • mase says:

    I’m just a regular joe-schmoe… I have been using Grand Central (Google Voice Beta) for over a year now and it’s a good service that “centralizes” all my calls and messages. One number that allows you to route incoming calls accordingly. I believe this will be very popular if google can also somehow aggregate voice and social media communication all into one.

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