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August 22, 2013

The Un-Joyn Command

It has been said that if you want to really screw things up, you should form a committee. But, if you want to keep things the way they are, then form an association.

The GSMA has the thankless task of being the industry association that tries to maintain the value of carriers working together when by their very nature; they are parochial and prefer to work alone. This is our history, particularly in the U.S., from technical standards deliberately aimed at keeping the market separate from the rest of the world, to the fierce roll-your-own independence that gave us TDMA and CDMA.

In fact, the Tyntec mobilesquared study concludes that less than 7 percent of the mobile operators are seeing the GSMA’s Joyn service as a viable solution, and that the carriers thus need to plan for something competitive on the their own. In my humble opinion, however, this misses the point of what Joyn was intended to achieve and suggests that the game is already lost (assuming, of course, that you know what game you are playing).

In the U.S., the major carriers are rolling out Voice over LTE not as a new service, but as the next iteration of their existing service. As a result, video will be considered an afterthought for a later phase, and the user experience will have the same look and feel of how phone calls are completed today. With services like VoBi, though, we can see the carriers marrying apps to voice without making the call OTT-friendly. The SIP / VoIP community has seen IMS as unnecessary for years, but now we see the walled garden will be critical for understanding how to interface with the carriers’ IMS implementation. As stated before, this is U.S.-specific, however it points to the big issue facing RCS implementations and exactly why Joyn was interesting. 

Skype and its competitors delivered an over-the-top solution that changed the International Settlements market, though candidly-speaking, the loss of the market was a mixed blessing for many carriers, because although high settlement costs made revenue look good, the operational and charge back issues made it a tough market to love. Joyn had the opportunity to bring back roaming in a way that made the carrier look like they wanted this market, however in the end the companies that originate calls likely did not see the same value as those who terminated the calls. So, with services offerings like ‘Friends and Family’ and other on-net premium solutions, Joyn looked like a nice-to-have and not a need-to-have. And one other part of the picture missing here is that the use of VoLTE / RCS could bring a better experience to existing customers, with landline SMS interfaces as well as video services.

So much is possible that is not being offered by simply seeking to emulate CLASS features on the POTS network, though at the end of the day, it is hard to focus on what could be when the carriers are so zeroed in on protecting what they already have.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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