The case FOR Mobile Video Calling

In my previous post I had discussed Why video calls haven’t taken off, here I’m making a case FOR Mobile Video Calling. I had posted this question on LinkedIn and IXDA forums to get some insights from people in the industry and user experience community as to why video calling didn’t take off. From the responses I received, it’s evident that although it won’t go mainstream anytime soon, it does have a niche market and there are a couple of factors moving in it’s favor.

Handset Availability

As device penetration increases, video call usage will increase, we can take the example of Japanese and Korean markets.

In Japan were there most of the handsets are 3G(>90%), the penetration of video calls have shown a better behaviour ,10% take up. [Marketing Manager at South East Asia at Ericsson]

People in Korea where there’s a much higher penetration of video-capable handsets and 3G networks are using video chat [Product design consultant]

Bad Call Quality is a myth

As pointed out by my friend Jose in comments of the previous post

in a 3G video call, the QoS is guaranteed, as a 64kbps circuit is allocated. So no re-buffering. As video and voice are encoded within 64kbps at 10-15 fps, the video is not extremely sharp, but there is no problem of re-buffering, video break or latency.

Privacy may not be that big a deal for some

I know that *I* tend to not use the cellphone much in crowded public spaces because it seems odd to be having a private conversation in public (even without speakerphone, one half of that conversation is pretty public). But given the number of people already having one half of loud conversations on their cellphones in public (even in quiet spaces), there seems to be a large percentage of people using cellphones who *aren’t* worried about the privacy issue.[Professor of Communicaion & Media at Clarkson University]

A few scenarios where it’ll be used

The ones who will drive video calls will be a different segment than the traditional cellphone user. So if any operator wants to drive this, need to understand what they want. This people is what we called digital natives, people who born with technology at a hand, wants to try new things but are very very picky, they live in the social netwotking world, use innovative ways of communication and are in the 2.0 world. Some operators understood this and are expanding videocalls to a new domain, leveraging on the web 2.0 user behaviour. So is not longer videocalls, is a new dimensions of services. Some examples:
Video blogging – Incredible example is 3 Italy videblog, were people can leave their posts using this technology, but also follow blogs from famous football players that leave a videopost every week.
Videodating – Finding friends or dating via videocalls. It’s like myspace but you can go to a full library of people who leave a videopost and interact with them. Good case for  targeting singleton segments.
Video TV – Using circuit switched you can stream live TV in a easy way and change channels using the keypad.
Mobile Reporter or meontv – Launched by some broadcasters but also CNN, people with a 3G phone can go live on TV to report something happening on their city. Leverage Citizen journalism.
Video surveillance – Leverage on parents peace of mind. You can access via 3G videocall a camera installed at your place for checking if your kid is fine. Up to 6 callers. Launch by 3Italy and also PWCC in Japan.
Videoconferencing – Up to 4 people at the same time. You can have a meeting with your colleagues using this service. Launch targeting business travelers by 3Hongkong and 3Italy.
Video shopping – You can use circuit switched streaming for watching and buying things from this channels.
Video calls to PC – You can call someone from your Phone to a PC client like skype or MSN.
[Marketing Manager at South East Asia at Ericsson]

Imagine grandparents that live out of state being able to be at their grandkids birthday parties or watch them open up Christmas gifts. There would be families that live out of state or country, people that travel on business that want to see their families every night. There are also uses like distance learning and telecommuting. [Logistics Analyst at NewPage]

When I speak to someone, I often want to show them something as the basis for discussion. It could be a piece of equipment, or a location, or a software application, or …

1. Look at the way these idiots installed our equipment. Any ideas on how to fix it?
2. Look what I found at this trade show?
3. We’re in the meeting with …. say hello.

Just my opinion, but I think these are the types of conversations (along with all the stupid college frat prank videos) that will drive interest. [Associate Professor at Auburn University and Owner, interactive Point of View]


We shouldn’t expect mobile video calling to go mainstream in the forseable future, but it does have it’s niche market. And as the market matures, we’ll see the adoption rate go up.

The market needs to reach a higher maturity level in order to make this technology feasible. Were now at a point where your camera phone penetration is 70+ % in most markets, the lead time to transition to the same type of figures with video callers is substantial. Assume average upgrades are 2 years, then consider that we need a device with video calling capability saturation of 60-80%, where most markets only currently have 10-15%. Were still 3+ years from seeing this technology “take off”. Some of the Asian markets should be excluded from my comments above as they always seem to be early adopters. [Operations Manager at WDS Global]

Some operators are grasping that Videocalling is a enabler, a tool a technology but not a killer application by itself. Video calling services need to be created thinking on the new internet user behaviour, expanding the technology to new boundaries. I´m quite optimistic about the future of this technolgy if operators unleash te real power of the consumers. Also we need to understand that telecom services follow the S-curve of innovation. Fast hype, some growth, the valley of deception, re-born, maturity and growth. Actually it took 16 years to SMS to become what is today (First SMS sent via VodafoneUK on 1992). [Marketing Manager at South East Asia at Ericsson]

Note: These are some of the responses I received. You can visit the original LinkedIn question and IXDA post to view all the responses.

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About Sachendra Yadav

Mobilist and Social Media enthusiast
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4 Responses to The case FOR Mobile Video Calling

  1. ankur gupta says:

    Let me tell u what i want as a user-

    1. A tripod for my fone, so that i dont have to keep it tagged infront of my face.

    2. voice quality over speaker and bluetooth is not v encouraging. When i use speaker , the friends voice breaks and my voice is also not clear. When i talk over bluetooth, ppl complain i aint loud enough.

    3. Cheap handsets and cheaper rates would definitively encourage.

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