Semester Project

Phase II

Telecommunications

(Comments can be sent to bay120@psu.edu and jlj6@psu.edu)



OVERVIEW

Over the years, the internet has led to a revolution in the way people communicate. For example, the internet now can be used to transmit a phone call. This can be accomplished via PC to PC calling, PC to standard telephone or telephone to telephone. These conversations take place by using what is known as "IP(Internet Protocol) Telephony". IP Telephony or Voice over IP (VoIP) routes calls over both public and private networks. VoIP was first started in early 1995 by using technology that enabled voice conversations between users over internet connected PCs. Traditional telephone companies viewed it as a disruptive technology but felt because of its low quality that it would never gain mass-market penetration. Today, however, because of improved IP telephony technologies and the need for voice, video and data networking, traditional telephone companies are evaluating the efficiency (or inefficiencies) of their traditional circuit switching networks. Since 1998, traditional telephone companies have invested in multi-billion dollar upgrades of their circuit-switched networks to be able to take advantage of opportunities of IP networks(1). Because of the growing interest in IP telephony, many newcomers and traditional telephone providers are vying to win the market, but what business model will be successful for this new technology?

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COST STRUCTURES

Traditional Telephone Providers:

Since traditional long distance phone providers have a major investment in their switching plants and linewire, maintaining and updating these networks is a major expense. Typically, they charge customers a per-minute fee, which covers access charges, transport, marketing, customer service, administration, depreciation, and a profit margin.

VoIP Providers:

A VoIP call goes to a local VoIP provider, which routes it over the internet to another VoIP provider on the receiving end, entirely bypassing the long distance switching plants (2). This decreases access charges, depreciation on equipment, and other costs. Customer service and marketing expenditures are higher for this service, but the savings under the new technology still allows for a larger profit margin compared with traditional long distance.

 

 

Traditional cost structure is represented by the graph on the left and VoIP cost structure is represented by the graph on the right (1).

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BUSINESS MODELS 

Traditional Telephone Providers:

Traditionally, telephone companies have offered customers local and/or long distance phone to phone services, which they routed through their own switching facilities and line networks.

For local service, there was generally a flat rate for calls made within a nearby geographical area. For long distance, companies utilized peak-load pricing strategies; that is, charging a higher price for long distance service at the busiest times than for times of the day or week when communications traffic is lighter. International calls were typically more expensive. As competition increased due to the breakup of AT&T's monopoly and subsequent deregulation, long distance carriers responded by increasing advertising and offering special promotions. They devised new pricing strategies that would appeal to groups of end users, such as the "Friends and Family" discounts given by MCI.

In recent years, technological advances have altered this business model. Phone companies are now able to offer more local services, including call waiting, caller ID, conference calling, and last-call redial, to name a few. The concept of "bundling" these features into packages allows providers to offer customers a discount over per-item pricing, while attaining overall greater revenues and building customer loyalty.

The advent of IP telephony and the increase in wireless communications have dramatically decreased revenues for traditional phone companies, since both of these technologies bypass the use of the switching plants. After a period of economic struggle, most traditional telephone providers have taken one of two routes: they have either embraced the new technology, or have acquired other companies that use or have the new technology.

Some companies resisted the incorporation of technological advances, choosing instead to try more traditional changes in their business models. Capsule Communications, for example, developed a nationwide sales force during 1999 in an effort to enlist the aid of local Chambers of Commerce to attract small business customers, but this effort failed (3). The company, which has since been acquired by Covista Communications, Inc., now uses internet agents to attract customers from web sites.

 

VoIP Providers:

There are three business models that prevail in the IP telephony market (1).

1. Ad Revenue Model

2. Charge/Fee Model

3. Hybrid Model

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CONCLUSION

The telephone service industry is in a transitional phase at this time. Technological advances have resulted in the emergence of more choices for end users of phone communications, and have left traditional providers scrambling to capture the profits from new markets while trying to prevent the erosion of their traditional customer base. The cost structure changes and convergence in business models that are taking place today will be discussed in detail in Phase 3 of this project.

 

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Acronyms

The telecommunications industry has many acronyms. The following is list of some of the acronyms that are used in the telecommunications industry.

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References

(1) "Management in an Information Age: A Study on IP Telephony", www.stanford.edu/~jseade/overview_frame_2.htm.

(2) "About VoIPWatch.com," VoIPwatch.com.

(3) Capsule Communication’s 10-K: www.sec.gov/edgar/data/1113227/000103605001500273/d10k.txt.

(4) Dubowski, Stefan, "Net2Phone and Go2Call have your number," CanadaComputes.com, Oct. 11, 2000.

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