Analyst group Deloitte has raised concerns that telecommunications carriers may not be able to fund the refresh of mobile data networks as users discover how to minimise data charges on their smartphones.
Deloitte - which counts telecommunications carriers such as Telstra on its books - made a raft of predictions around the telecommunications market today, one of which was the rise of mobile users discovering the value of using Wi-Fi zones to circumvent carrier charges.
As more smart phones are equipped with Wi-Fi capability, Deloitte said, more users will discover that they can bypass call tolls by making VoIP calls from within Wi-Fi zones such as their office, home or within public Wi-Fi hotspots such as cafes and airport lounges.
This could have serious implications on the bottom line of carriers, the Deloitte report said.
"Routing calls over Wi-Fi could reduce demands on the cellular network, catalyse the disappearance of the voice tariff [flag-fall], and reduce overall termination charges..." the report said.
"If mobile VoIP results in declining revenues for operators, available investments for the maintenance and of current networks could also drop, and funds available for the roll-out of next-generation infrastructure could be threatened."
Deloitte said this would lead providers to introduce data caps on mobile plans, which is already standard practice in Australia but is less common in the United States.