Had an interesting meeting with the Ofcom market research team. This is the team responsible for the Annual Communications Market Report which is a must read if you are in our game.
The meeting was arranged by Ofcom’s Chris Rowsell because the VoIP service provider industry, via trade body ITSPA, had expressed concern that the VoIP content of last year’s report showed a decline in consumer use of the technology. This was not the actual experience of the ITSPA membership so this year we wanted to try and help make sure that the research that was conducted was more accurate.
After the meeting I did come away with a certain degree of sympathy for Ofcom. It is very difficult to come up with an easy definition for VoIP that can be understood by the general public so that accurate research can be conducted.
It didn’t really help that some of the example service providers used by Ofcom in the research questionnaire were of services that no one in the room had ever heard of. If industry experts could not answer what chance Joe Public?
Another interesting part of the mix is that the only bit of the Annual Report that Ofcom is required to cover under statute is the TV market. This means that the mobile/fixed line telephony/internet bit is optional and the regulator is only interested in covering bits that might affect the legislative decision making process. So consumer VoIP is of interest to them but not business VoIP.
As a Business to Business VoIP provider Timico, along with most ITSPs in the UK is only interested in the business market numbers. This is somewhat disappointing to the industry which is left without a particularly accurate metric of its size.
We left the meeting with a some positive actions. Ofcom is quite happy to take on board suggestions from ITSPA as to how the research can be improved and although there isn’t much time this year to get it done, this is something we will take onboard. Secondly, in the absence of their own data, Ofcom appears to be willing to publish the numbers collected by ITSPA member and Communications Consultancy Illume which gathers basic industry subscriber numbers on a quarterly basis.
Hopefully we will be able to help improve the VoIP aspect of the report this year.