This famous quote attributed to Mark Twain in the late 19th century can be applied to the voice telecommunications industry. For years we have read, heard, and even participated in discussions of the “death of voice”. Many companies today are shunning voice seeing it as an application like texting, and thus, having no economic value. But we are here to push back against this notion.
We do, in fact, believe that reports of the ‘death of voice’ have been greatly exaggerated and here’s why…
Voice communication, more than written communication, has been at the center of human interaction since humans climbed down from trees and walked out of the continent of Africa and set up civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates all those years ago. Before written language, before papyrus or paper, before Guttenberg and the printing press, before the typewriter, before the keyboard, before the computer and the iphone, before all of it, there was voice. Voice communication is still central to how human beings connect with each other.
Even amongst the kids, where texting is so prevalent that people are wondering about conditions such as “text neck”, kids still like to talk to each other. Look at apps like HouseParty for example. My thirteen-year-old son is on that all the time. Why? Because he, and his friends, like to speak to each other. They text and send pics, but they like to hang out on the phone with each other in group chats and just talk. Same with my 15-year-old and his Fortnite buddies. They can’t text while they are playing their video games, but they like to talk (if talking is screaming at each other over the latest Fortnite issue or RocketLeague). So, it’s clear that voice communications are here to stay and will always be the primary method for human beings to connect with each other and share stories, information, feelings, etc.
But what about people and companies paying for voice services? Is that dead? Will it die soon? The answer is, unequivocally, no. People will continue to pay for voice services. It will never, ever, be truly free.
What did you say? That’s a crazy bold statement I am claiming? Voice revenues have declined to almost $0.00 ever since the U.S. passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act, but they haven’t declined to $0.00. They aren’t free today, and they will never be free. How can I claim this? Actually, it’s kind of simple. The reason voice will never be free is because everyone will always be willing to pay for a service that is crucial to our notion of ourselves, and that, when we need it to work, has to work.
Still unconvinced, okay, let’s assume voice does become completely free at some point. What about 911 services? These are matters of life, death, and property. Who would be responsible for delivering these services if there was no money to pay for the people, tools, and resources necessary to make sure these calls get delivered in at least the level of quality they get delivered today?
What about business communications? Business voice calls are a critical component of a business’s daily operations. They are, in many ways, the oxygen of a business. Without the ability to speak to customers, suppliers, vendors, employees, partners, shareholders, investors, companies would fail. Because of this, businesses will always pay for voice services. They will pay to ensure that when they need to make a phone call, the call will connect, and the quality will be good. Sure, they want to pay competitive pricing, but they will pay for that every day of the week. I mean, what would you pay for oxygen?
So, the voice industry is here to stay, it’s never going to go away. It may change in form and pricing, but it is never going to be free, and companies and people will always pay for it.