Consumers and businesses will soon be able to access both their voicemails and emails from a single mailbox, either using mobile phones or Internet browsers.
The technology, called unified messaging, is set to explode in the next six years and it?s a scrum as to which service providers will win a chunk of the $31 billion of global revenues estimated to be available by 2006.
According to Ovum?s latest report, ?Unified messaging services: market strategies?, users will either build their own network or subscribe to all-in services from communications providers. The winning service provider will be able to slash churn - the number of subscribers cancelling or failing to renew contracts - because customers will be less willing to leave services they become used to and are able to tailor.
However it is unclear which kind of service provider will win out, suggested the report?s author, Mary Ann O?Loughlin. Traditional telcos, such as BT, are in a strong position because they have the customer base but could become too complacent. Mobile operators also have the ideal customer base: the so-called power mobile users that use their handsets to manage their business and personal lives.
However, both kinds of suppliers will need to reorganise their channels and internal businesses ?massively?. This is because each of the services that make up unified messaging are currently being developed by different units of the same company.
?Incumbent telecomms operators have access to users but their organisation means they are not addressing unified messaging in a coherent way,? said O?Loughlin.
The technology will also blur the definition of who provides network access and who provides the service, giving independent service providers a market opportunity. The network and the network operator will become transparent while the service provider becomes the visible supplier.
Unified messaging brings together important elements of modern communications: the Internet, voice, and email. Users will be able to ?listen? to their emails and faxes, plus ?read? their voicemails, and vice versa, through mobile phones or Web browsers. The system will eventually be able to filter and prioritise messages. The early adopters will be small businesses and individuals that receive many different types of communications.
There has been many service trials over the past year and a few have been launched as commercial services from carriers BT and Telia, plus independent network provider, Concord Technologies.
Development will fall into three phases and span eight years. Between 1998 and 1999 business travellers and small businesses will start the ball rolling, but the potential market is limited because email is not yet critical to most consumers and many small firms.
Also interoperability problems between the different elements prevent unified messaging being useful for enterprises. Currently there are fewer than 20,000 unified mailboxes in operation.
By 2003 services will be available in all developed countries, as unified messaging becomes a ?necessity? to users with heavy duty communications needs among businesses and consumers. Service providers will begin to brand their offerings.
The advanced phase will begin in 2004 when nearly every individual in wealthy economies will have their own unified inbox, predicted Ovum. Enterprises will begin building their own platforms rather than subscribing to services. The rest of the customer base will be owned by service providers and network operators, or traditional carriers, will lose their hold on subscribers.
Geoengineering on the sea floor near glaciers would form a new ice shelf to prevent melting
Alterations in capillary blood flow can be caused by body position change
Curiosity rover is in 'normal mode' but not transmitting scientific data back to base
NatWest outage comes a day after Barclays' IT systems shut out customers and staff