First, the VOIP services market is growing fast, but it’s still tiny compared to the market for mobile telephony.
Second, most subscribers get VOIP as part of a bundle of services they get with broadband connections.
Third, Japan is way ahead of the rest of the world in terms of VOIP subscriber numbers.
Now for some details. Point Topic estimates that the number of VOIP subscribers more than doubled in the nine months up to the end of March, when the worldwide numbers reached 17.4 million. That’s a big number, but it’s tiny compared to the world population of 1.4 billion mobile subscribers cited on the GSM Association Website. Skype Technologies SA. That’s up from just 5 million retail subscribers in mid-2004.
Point Topic says Skype subscriber numbers are tough to pin down. As of April, Skype reported there had been 100 million downloads of its soft client, compared with 35 million registered users and 1.2 million SkypeOut accounts, which allow users to pay so they can call traditional phones.
Clearly, not everyone who has downloaded the software is actually using it, so Point Topic used a weekly and daily average of minutes served (based on the rolling total on Skype’s Website) to come up with a total of 5.3 million “user-equivalents.”
Another key point to come out of Point Topic’s statistics is that VOIP has mostly been making inroads as a secondary line bundled with something else. Well over half of the retail users, or 7.2 million, are in Japan, where Softbank BB Corp. bundles its Yahoo! BB Phone service with a broadband subscription. The next largest market is the U.S., where the cable sector accounts for around 2.1 million subscribers. France leads the European market with 1.2 million lines, mostly provided by Free and Neuf Telecom as part of a triple-play service.
See Table 1 for a breakdown of the figures. Table 1: VOIP Subscribers Q4 2004 & Q1 2005 (thousands)
|Q4 2004 (000s)||Q1 2005 (000s)|
|Retail VOIP Total (rounded)||10,300||11,500|
|Soft Clients Total||4,050||5,905|
|Source: Point Topic Ltd.|
— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading