Viewers voting on Saturday’s hit BBC show The Voice were able to vote without being charged a premium over the advertised rate when voting from their mobile phones – a great step forwards for the broadcast industry. To date mobile callers voting via the 09 numbers have been charged far higher rates by their mobile carriers than those advertised on screen – putting viewers off voting. The BBC has achieved this price transparency through the use of voice short-codes – with votes costing a fixed 25p.
What is a voice short-code? Few people outside the industry could answer that a week ago – but that’s all changing as voice short-codes have made their mainstream debut on The Voice, thrusting them in front of millions of UK viewers. Voice short-codes are 5, 6 or 7-digit numbers which can be called from mobiles, available at a range of consumer prices – and crucially they always cost the advertised rate to call.
This TV voting debut is great news for the industry as a whole:
- Viewers will get used to calling short-codes from their mobiles – consumer education is key with any new mass-market product.
- Mobile voters will no longer be charged a vast premium. Viewers will learn to trust voice short-codes as a voting mechanic – as they will always be charged the advertised rate and ‘calls from mobiles will [no longer] cost considerably more’.
- Premium SMS is no longer used for voting – as message delivery cannot be guaranteed before the votes are counted. Voice short-codes overcome this.
It’s also a great success for AIME – the driving force behind getting voice short-codes onto our screens and overcoming the commercial and technical challenges. For the past couple of years I have been chairing AIME’s Voice Short-Code Working Group – which includes the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 as well as the mobile operators – and it’s exciting to finally see the fruits of our labour arriving on TV screens on hit shows.
What does this mean for the rest of the telecoms industry? TV voting is the tip of the iceberg – its high visibility is key to encouraging other organisations to start using voice short-codes. To date, voice short-codes have been the domain of niche premium rate service providers at higher rate tariffs – however the recent launch of lower consumer price points across all mobile operators in the UK (including mobile freephone numbers) is resulting in adoption amongst large organisations for both sales and customer care functions.
How large is the potential market for voice short-codes now they’re going mainstream? This is difficult to assess – suffice to say that the market for non-geographic telephony (such as 0800 numbers) in the UK dwarfs the SMS market. Soon mobile users could be using memorable 5-digit numbers to call their bank, place a bet or buy a mobile phone. New products don’t come along every day in the telecoms market – and here at Orca Digital we’re seeing lots of activity and interest.
It will be very interesting to see where the voice short-code market is in 12 months time – how large do you think it will grow?
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