There has been a massive rise in the number of people paying to use retail voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services, with the total number estimated at around 24 million worldwide.
According to the report IP Telephony from the UK research firm Point Topic, which tracks this market, the total number of subscribers increased by 83pc during 2005. There were 10.3 million subscribers at the start of the year, rising to more than 18.7 million by the end of December 2005.
Factoring in the PC-to-phone sector to include services such as Skype swells the figure still further and the total number of global VoIP subscribers approaches 24 million, said John Bosnell, senior analyst at Point Topic. This larger figure represents around 65pc growth on the previous year.
The VoIP market is dominated by Japan, France and the US in terms of subscriber numbers, Point Topic found. “Although Japan has the highest number of VoIP subscribers at the moment, current growth rates are slowing and there are other markets coming up,” Bosnell commented. “The US is very strong and France is the leader in Europe by some distance.”
Other European countries, notably Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, began to see significant VoIP activity by the end of last year and many of these markets were reporting strong growth for early 2006, according to Point Topic.
The research firm has estimated the number of Skype users based on reported results for the fourth quarter of 2005, where the company’s reported revenues were US$28.4m. This would equate to an average of 4.73 million subscribers paying US$2 per month during the three months of the quarter. Point Topic acknowledged that this is an assumption but said the exercise gives an idea of how many regular paying customers Skype has.
“There are plenty of markets with plenty of room for growth,” said Bosnell, who observed that in established markets such as Japan, France and the US consumers are happy to use VoIP services, particularly if they see themselves saving money. “The remaining barriers are consumer inertia and local regulations,” Bosnell added.
By Gordon Smith