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For all the impact of text and IM, people still talk on the phone. So is there a way to make money from voice with ads? Yes, says Calldorado’s Claudia Dreier-Poepperl. And operators are best placed to cash in…

What happened to voice?

People still speak to each other on the phone. But voice revenues have been on the decline for years. According to Statista, they peaked at $720bn in 2011.

Five years later they were $684bn. That’s $36bn wiped out.

It’s obvious why. Voice has become commoditised. The average post-pay subscriber gets more minutes than they need, and prices have come down for pre-pay customers too.

Meanwhile, people have offloaded some of their spoken conversation to other forms of communication – text, IM and so on.

And we all know what’s happened there. The revenues accruing from these new channels is flowing away from operators to OTT providers like WhatsApp and Skype. Indeed, Juniper Research estimates this migration will cost network operators nearly $104 billion this year, equivalent to 12 per cent of their service revenues.

So is that it? Should the world’s operators forget about voice?

Claudia Dreier-Poepperl doesn’t think so. She’s the CEO of Calldorado, which offers a ad-based Caller ID service largely targeted at app developers. But in the last few weeks, the company has opened up to operators too.

Here’s how the Calldorado proposition works. An Android app developer embeds the Calldorado SDK into its app. Then when the user makes a voice call, the software is activated. It displays information about the caller and, at the end of the call, it serves a link back to the app (whether it’s open or not). It also serves advertising.

Calldorado believes its model succeeds where other ad propositions fail. First, it’s non-intrusive. Dreier-Poepperl says: “The SDK doesn’t impact the primary functionality of the app into which it is incorporated. It doesn’t interrupt the calling experience of the user either, so users can make calls as normal.”

The service is also contextual. It could, for example, display car-related ads after a call to an auto repair shop.

Finally, it drastically increases available inventory. Calldorado says its platform serves on average 150 impressions per user per month for a single client.

So what has this to do with operators?

Well, Dreier-Poepperl believes that operators are in a unique position to benefit from the model. After all, they are app developers too.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 10.18.51Most MNOs have their own utility apps (e.g. My Vodafone, My Orange, My Telenor), which subscribers use to monitor and manage their accounts. Dreier-Poepperl says the Calldorado SDK could easily be integrated into them.

Operators could even use the SDK to create their own branded Caller ID apps, which they could pre-load or market to existing customers. She says: “Caller ID helps retain customers – it is proving increasingly important as robot and spam-calls increase. Most end users would value an app provided by their operator that tackled this problem.”

In addition to reducing churn, these apps would be revenue-generating. How much? Well Calldorado says that a US operator could expect between $1.086 million and $1.68 million in annual revenue (depending on geography).

And the cost? Nothing. The service is provided free, so there are no direct costs associated with this mobile advertising income.