Video Calls for Christmas

I have to admit that although I like video calls I haven't made one in quite a long time, mostly due to international video calls being prohibitively expensive and some network operators that still bar prepaid customers from receiving video calls. That severely limits my options… Anyway so for Christmas I called family and friends and some of them by now even have video call capable 3G phones. A very nice experience!

Despite many people arguing that video calling is a lost cause I still think it's a great opportunity for mobile network operators to offer a service only they can provide in a truly mobile and (almost) always-on fashion, at least for the moment. Don't get me wrong, I don't want all of my calls to be video calls but sometimes it would be very nice to get a video stream from the other side.

Unfortunately, there are still some significant hurdles to video calling even many years after the launch of 3G networks:

  • 3G in-house coverage is still a big issue, especially for video calls. Femtos and UMTS on 900 MHz will help over time.
  • As I said above, many network operators still limit video-calling to their post-paid subscribers. I can understand the notion of premium service and all, but after so many years I think it's time to open it up to all subscribers to create a critical mass.
  • Pricing
  • No interfaces to other video systems that are popular such as Skype
  • No advertising around video-calls at all. Quite incredible and I wonder how many people are aware that they could actually make a video-call with their phone.

And while we are at it, it would also be nice to see someone implement features such as voice only at first and adding a video stream later or see-what-I-see on my phone.

4 thoughts on “Video Calls for Christmas”

  1. Hi Martin,

    I personally think the big hurdle is with the quality. It doesn’t offer a decent user experience – for example, you get “pixelation”, can’t hear the other side clearly, etc.

    Ayy thought on that?

  2. Video telephony (VT) has turned out to be one of the big failures of 3G networks.

    I agree with the reasons presented, namely price, coverage (for both parties), quality, 3G terminals (for both parties).

    Interestingly enough, some 3G handsets now days don’t even put a forward facing camera on the phone. My Nokia 6500 Classic was one of them but there are many more.

    Regarding voice only then adding video, that’s an IMS type service. As far as I am aware this is not possible or defined in the specs in a “classic” circuit switched network.

    I also remember Greece’s Cosmote operator running a promotion for a while that had VT calls charged at exactly the same rate as normal voice only calls on their network. Unfortunately I don’t have any insight on what result this promotion had and if it lead to an increase in VT usage..

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