Traditional mobile voice not dead

The circuit switched mobile voice $500-billion per year business is under attack from over-the-top (OTT) providers but there are no indications that the traditional voice business is falling apart. In fact, the numbers show traditional mobile voice is still good business.

Smartphone and mobile broadband adoption combined with regulatory regimes that have forbidden mobile operators from blocking mobile VoIP (mVoIP) applications. You would expect the market to be primed for adoption of OTT services – Skype, dominates the worldwide mVoIP services market with 600m subcribers. But when did you last pay to use Skype – they offer their services for free, so there is little room for native VoIP-based services.

OTT numbers are also far from impressive: 91 million active users in 2011, up from 47 million in 2010, generating revenues of $1.2 billion. Poor when compared to more than 5.6 billion mobile subscribers worldwide delivering $460 billion worth of voice revenues.

The numbers explain why mobile operators never launched mVoIP services. Also PLMN (public land mobile network) services are engineered and optimized for voice. Consequently, there is no rush to offer voice over HSPA+ or LTE networks.

There is still plenty for mobile broadband revenue to do in order to catch up with voice. Even in places like Japan, where mobile broadband rose to more than 50 percent of total revenue in 2010, voice generates baseline profits. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, reported that in Q4 2011 mobile data (including both SMS and mobile broadband) made up only 41% and 41.5% percent of total mobile services revenue respectively.

Therefore, despite the overwhelming buzz around mobile broadband, mobile internet and 4G, a close look at the reality suggests that voice as we know it is here to stay – and it will take more than a mega Skype to kill it. Mobile operators are milking their GSM cows and ride their HSPA horses as long as they last.

MTN Roaming

We have been asked by MTN subscribers for options when roaming:

Voicemail Callback

Normally users must dial +2783 1000 000 to listen to voicemail – they will pay for an outgoing call from the country they are in at international voice rates. Instead, users can dial the roaming shortcut code of *111*100#, navigate through the menu options and select Voicemail Callback. Voicemail will then call from South Africa so that users do not have to pay for an outgoing call from the country they are in.

Divert all calls to voicemail and use iMail

Before leaving South Africa, divert all calls to go to voicemail (unconditional diverts) in the settings on a device. This means that whenever someone calls, the call will be diverted straight to voicemail. Users won’t have to pay for an incoming calls while roaming.

iMail – upon diverting all calls to a voicemail box, customers can visit MTN’s Web site, register for MTN iMail and log in at any time to listen to messages on the Internet instead of on the phone.

SMS only roaming

Simply dial *111*14# to activate SMS roaming. Once activated, all voice and data capabilities on the phone will be switched off, and users will only be able to send and receive SMSs


Switch off all automatic updates on your device or computer – automatic updates in the background while connected to the Internet can cost you a fortune. By switching these updates off, users can save on their roaming bill.

Make 100% sure to know what the data rates are! (see our previous blog for MTN rates).