Om's been talking a lot about VoIP quality falling off the proverbial cliff. This is going to become a bigger and bigger competitive driver. In fact, interestingly, Cringely confirms something this week that I've heard anecdotally:
"...Here's how they plan to cripple the Vonages and Skype's, according to friends of mine who have spent 20+ years in engineering positions at telephone companies, cable companies and internet service providers. As the phone and cable companies begin offering their own VoIP services in real volume, they plan to "tag" their own VoIP packets so that at least within their own networks, their VoIP service will have COS (Class of Service) assignments with their routers, switches, etc. They also plan on implementing distinct Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) for the tagged packets."
So, on the one hand we have an emerging problem - on the other, the network operators' potential solution. And it's just as tricky as you'd expect. Of course, in the long term, it's a dominated strategy, because all it does it exert massive selection pressure on the Vonages of the world to radically innovate and develop discontinuously more efficient VoIP mechanisms. But you wouldn't expect the incumbents, with decades of strategic myopia behind them, to think of the long term game. Competition in this space is gonna be messy, and probably equal parts fun and frustrating to watch.