96-Just when they thought it was safe…

The telephone industry has had its ups and downs over the last twenty years, but the wireless business has helped it survive nicely.

Telephone customers are changing how they buy phone service. For the last several years, customers have been migrating away from land line phones to cell phones. Many of the under-35 set rely exclusively on cell phones for their phone service.

The largest telephone companies, including AT&T and Verizon, solved the problem of the lost land line business by buying cell phone carriers and expanding the cell phone business. This move kept their profits intact. These companies make most of their cell phone profits with voice communications. A secondary source of profits for them is data communications. Today the combination of land line and cell phone services produces an attractive business for both AT&T and Verizon.

They have had their challenges, though. One of these challenges has come from the internet calling unit of eBay, Skype. For the last several years, Skype has offered very low-cost telephone service using Voice/Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to allow its subscribers to use the internet for their phone calls. The company claims to have over 400MM users worldwide. This low-end product has certainly had an effect on the land line businesses of AT&T and Verizon.

Now Skype is coming to the cell phone business. Skype has developed a service that allows its users on mobile phones to make calls and send instant messages on mobile phones, with Apple phones and BlackBerrys. This new service has the potential to allow customers to use data plans, rather than more expensive voice plans, to make calls using Skype.

This is an example of a low-end competitor posing a challenge to the leading products of the industry leaders. If industry leaders, whom we call Standard Leaders, do not stop or slow the growth of low-end Price Leaders and Next Leaders, these companies can eventually become Standard Leaders in their own right. (not likely in a Hostile market. See the Perspective “Commodities and Hostile Markets” on StrategyStreet.com.) Consider the following examples:

~ Dell began its career in the personal computer industry as a Price Leader.

~ Enterprise Rent-a-Car grew to become the largest automobile rental company, starting from a low-end base.

~ Today’s LG appliances compete against the GEs and Whirlpools of the world. They began as Price Leader Lucky Goldstar products.

~ Dean Foods grew to become the largest dairy producer in the United States beginning from its roots as a private label supplier.

~ Gallo entered the mid and high-priced segments of the table wine industry, from its beginning, with such low-end products as Thunderbird wine.

~ Southwest Airlines has become a leader in the airline industry from its roots as a discount air carrier.

~ VF leads the denim industry, where it once was a cut-rate competitor of Levis.

~ Nucor is the second largest steel manufacturer in the United States. It began its life as a seller of one of the industry’s cheapest products, rebar.

~ Toyota and Honda both entered and grew in the American automobile market, starting with the small car segment. Is Hyundai next?

~ Wal Mart has become the largest department store and grocer in the U.S., surpassing Sears, Macys and Kroger.

~ Charles Schwab has become a powerhouse in the brokerage industry, starting from its original base as a discount broker.

Posted 4/13/09


An industry undergoing fast growth offers opportunities not only to the current industry leaders but to many others as well. If the industry leaders falter, other competitors will quickly fill the void. This has happened to Skype. To stay on top of a market, a company should consider the questions HERE.

By 2010, Skype had over 600 million regular users. By then, it had become the international market leader in voice over Internet phone calling. Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011. However, the company has been superseded by competitors offering more features and greater ease-of-use. Using the UK market as an example, about 19% of consumers aged 25 to 34 used Skype to make calls over the Internet. This places the company number 6 in the market behind Whatsapp, Zoom, Face Time, Facebook Messenger and Microsoft Teams. At LinkedIn, which is also owned by Microsoft, Skype has been upstaged by Microsoft Teams. Recently, LinkedIn skipped Skype when it built a new voice calling capability. Instead, it opted for Microsoft Teams, Zoom and BlueJeans.

In 2022 the data market accounted for 69% of the total revenues in mobile phone services. This data market is growing about 5% a year. The remainder of the market is voice, a market shrinking at roughly 2% a year. The major telephone service companies from 2008 all offer both data and voice mobile services, either through acquisitions or organic growth.


If you face a competitive marketplace, read these blogs. We wrote them to help you make better decisions on segments, products, prices and costs based on the experience of companies in over 85 competitive industries. Much of the world suffered a severe recession from 2008 to 2011. During that time, we wrote more than 270 blogs using publicly available information and our Strategystreet system to project what would happen in various companies and industries who were living in those hostile environments. In 2022, we updated each of these blogs to describe what later took place. You can use these updated blogs to see how the Strategystreet system works and how it can lead you to better decisions.