Talmon Marco, founder & CEO, Viber Media is speaking on Day One of the LTE World Summit, taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Just ahead of the conference we speak to him about why LTE is important to Viber and why roaming issues need to be resolved to ensure OTT services can prosper.
How did you come to create Viber and what was your motivation?
As users of other solutions we were frustrated by the lack of an easy to use mobile voice and messaging solution. We felt that both the network and the phones were getting to the point where such a solution was feasible and yet none was in existence. So we decided to build it.
How important are technologies such as LTE to disruptive technologies such as Viber?
The quality of the network is extremely important to a service like Viber. While Viber has multiple mechanisms in place designed to improve user experience on sub-optimal networks, a good quality network is essential to a good service. LTE improves network quality thereby making services like Viber significantly more appealing to end users.
Have you any concerns about spectrum harmonisation issues and poor LTE device availability hampering take up of technology such as Viber?
As with all new technology, LTE has its growing pains. Spectrum harmonisation is one such challenge. Device availability is another. That said, there is no doubt that LTE is happening. It can always happen faster. We are quite happy with the take-up rate of Viber, but obviously it can always be better.
Viber brings free voice, text and photo messaging to users, and thus removes revenue opportunities for networks. Does this make for a difficult relationship with operators?
Not necessarily. In the long term we believe Viber will help operators streamline their operation and services by focusing on improving their network and providing a great user experience. We see great opportunity for both operators and Viber in partnering to deliver innovative OTT services to their users. OTT can help carriers differentiate their services.
Many network operators believe that OTT players are a burden on networks and should in some way be made to contribute to costs. Where do you stand on this?
OTT players do not burden the network. They do not behave in an “abusive” way. Users are paying for the bits that they transfer and choose to use these bits via OTT services. A 20kbps voice conversation or a 200 byte transmission of an OTT text message represents far less burden on the network than a three-minute YouTube clip.
There’s been some pressure recently by the EU to lower roaming prices for voice and data. Is enough progress being made on this?
We’re seeing some nice progress in this field as multiple European operators are now offering more reasonable roaming packages. In the long term, we believe that roaming charges are an artificial cost that should go away. At the end of the day the added costs of providing roaming services are minimal.
Do you think technologies such as Viber will render VoLTE redundant, before it is even introduced by operators?
This is difficult to predict. It’s possible that services like Viber will end up powering VoLTE.
Innovation is clearly key to your company. Do you feel there is enough innovation in the mobile industry and if so, can you provide examples?
If you compare the state of the mobile world in May 2007 to May 2012 you can’t avoid the conclusion of a massive transformation in mobile. Innovation is everywhere. A good example would be a service like Waze that uses the power of the masses to generate a real time traffic map (and also the map itself) of the world by observing the location of its users and the speed at which they are moving . Such services were not possible before the smartphone revolution.
What changes would you hope to see in the industry in the next five years?
We hope to see continued improvement in networks combined with a simplification of local and roaming tariffs, making a high quality network available to everyone all the time.
The LTE World Summit is taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. Click here to register your http://ws.lteconference.com/interest.