O2 has launched TU Go, the awaited VoIP service allowing customers to make and receive calls from five devices at the same time.
The move is no surprise: O2 has been promising TU Go for a while, but its now available to all contract customers who can sign up and download the apps for iOS, Android and Windows 7. Calls are routed to those devices over fixed, cellular or Wi-Fi networks as appropriate with incoming calls ringing on up to five devices simultaneously as O2 turns voice into a service as flexible as any other.
It's a bit like using Skype, only better integrated into the traditional telephony network and billed from the existing tariff rather than requiring SkypeOut minutes. So a customer can send SMS messages and make voice calls from a PC just as though one were on a mobile phone, without having to change numbers and in the knowledge that if one were wandering the Scottish hills then the calls should still arrive over the 2G cellular network.
But TU Go is bigger that that: it's about recognising that voice is a service just like any other, the carrying medium being irrelevant. An O2 customer is an account addressed by a number, so calls to the number should be routed to the customer over whatever technology they choose to use - even if they one day decide to take their connectivity elsewhere.
For that is part of the plan, to allow customers of other telcos to buy a voice service from O2 just as they might subscribe to GMail, NetFlix or Skype, but with access to O2's Priority services (tickets, vouchers and so forth), O2's billing systems and other services offered by the company, which is walking towards a world where data is entirely decoupled from services. O2 wants to plant a flag firmly on both sides of the fence.
TU Go isn't being pushed very hard, but it shouldn't be underrated as another VoIP play. It's a critical step in the evolution of mobile telecommunications. Whether it’s the right step is more debatable, but the most important thing now will be the quality of experience O2 can offer to those customers who choose to try out the service, it won't take much to push customers away but in the long term this could be one of the most important products O2 has ever launched. ®