Telecoms equipment vendors and analysts are divided over whether voice telephone calls will eventually be free and operators will instead make their money from value added services.
Vendors, including Hewlett-Packard and EDS, said at the IDC European Telecoms Forum last week that voice calls will be free within three to six years.
But a senior IDC analyst said she disagreed, pointing out to the 200 telecoms equipment vendors and operators at the event that the vast majority of telecoms operators' revenue comes from voice calls.
IDC estimates that of Europe's $190 billion (#117 billion) communications market, voice revenue represents a big chunk - around 84%. Meanwhile, IP and data traffic - despite the hype - generates only 16% of revenue.
"Within six years, only 3% to 4% of telcos' revenue will come from voice calls," said Sebastiano Tevarotto, marketing manager for HP's worldwide enterprise division. "Eventually voice will be given for free.
"If you are a company with a high-performance revenue, you can give voice for free and make money on services," he added.
Hartmut Gotz, director of EDS' European communications group, said he expects voice to be free within three years as operators bundle voice services with a range of value added services such as security, Web hosting and billing.
But IDC's senior vice president of communications industry research, Gigi Wang, disagreed.
"How can voice be free? How can the Internet be free? Someone has to pay for the network," said Wang.
"Carriers and ISPs' strategy should be to bundle services so that it appears that Internet and voice is free - but they have to bundle so that voice still gets paid for," she said.
Services that could be bundled with voice telecoms include application services, Web hosting and call centre hosting, she added.
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