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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 08, 2012

Can MSOs Challenge Skype?

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Do cable companies have an opportunity to dethrone Skype (News - Alert), the over-the-top (OTT) voice and video conferencing juggernaut?

Some solution providers are making moves in that direction.

During May’s 2012 Cable Show held in Boston, several companies highlighted products and services that enhance and extend the OTT offerings cable multiple system operators (MSOs) can provide their customers. This could potentially be a threat to the likes of Skype, which some feel has been resting on its laurels.

“Skype is pretty old and ripe for a serious takedown,” OTT watcher, Doug Mohney recently wrote in an opinion piece at Mobility Techzone. “There are a billion or more downloaded Skype clients, but the software was built to do voice and video. It hasn’t innovated much in the past couple of years, sticking in a basic comfort zone of being Skype ‘anywhere’ built around voice and video without exploiting a third dimension of interactivity and richer data sharing added by mobile devices.”

He continued, “Microsoft’s (News - Alert) big plan for Skype? Put it on the Xbox and integrate it somehow into Lync. Woo hoo!”

Mohney points to Metaswitch Networks’ Thrutu retail client that allows users to share more than just a call, as well as the company’s new Accession Immersive Multimedia Telephony offering (IMT), as one of the best examples of what could displace Skype if the technology evolves and develops a large enough user base.

Accession IMT enables MSOs to deliver fluid call control between smartphones, fixed lines and tablets. With IMT, subscribers can “push and pull” calls between devices, seamlessly uplift to high-definition voice and video and move calls in progress from any third party wireless operator to an MSOs broadband network.

This technology is the foundation of a credible Skype alternative.

“I think a big theme for cable operators is showing that they are more than just TV,” said Metaswitch director of marketing, Chris Carabello, during a conversation at the Cable Show. It “is really about delivering a cross-platform experience. So delivering the voice experience beyond the telephone, but also delivering it to a number of different devices, and fluid call control between wireless devices, smartphones and tablets.”

Carabello stressed the importance of MSOs offering voice across multiple devices.

“It is really big,” he noted. “It used to be considered that the mobile worker was maybe the chief executive or the sales person, but now all of us are armed with these devices, a lot more people are working from home, and a lot more people are working remotely. So the operator, in order to have a competitive service, has to really unify those islands of communication and deliver a seamless experience with their platform, their number, their voicemail tied into the corporate PBX (News - Alert). It really makes for a superior product.”

Whether it makes for a superior product that could challenge Skype, however, remains an unanswered question for MSOs and industry watchers alike.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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