Residential VOIP Will Boom, Says Study
That’s good news for companies like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), which make ATAs, the little boxes that connect an analog telephone to a broadband modem. D-Link Systems Inc. and Telco Systems (BATM) will also benefit as suppliers of VOIP residential gateways, which are like ATAs with built-in routers. But ATA and gateway makers will eventually face stiff competition from vendors like Clarisys and Grandstream Networks Inc., which make IP and SIP phones -- handsets that don’t require an adapter box to link to a broadband connection.
Frost & Sullivan predicts that sales of residential VOIP endpoints in the U.S. and Canada will grow from $9 million last year to $700 million in 2007. Right now, ATAs account for most of those sales, since few consumers are ready to throw out perfectly good analog phones, and popular residential VOIP service providers like Vonage Holdings Corp. supply ATAs to all of their customers (see Vonage Claims VOIP First). “The ATA will probably remain the dominant device for at least another year or so,” says Jon Arnold, a Frost & Sullivan analyst and author of North America Residential VOIP Market: Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me.
But that will change as residential VOIP service proliferates and consumers replace old handsets. “Ultimately, we’re all going to be using SIP phones or IP phones because that’s just the way the world’s going to go,” Arnold says. “But we’re a long way from that being the norm.” One inhibitor is price. Most SIP and IP phones cost more than analog phones, but prices will drop as sales volumes grow. “In 2007, ATAs will still remain the biggest piece of the puzzle, but the growth of ATAs is going to slow down, and you’re going to see the growth of IP phones accelerate quite a bit."
Frost & Sullivan also foresees strong growth in sales of VOIP residential gateways because they offer more functionality than ATAs. Many gateways come with built-in routers and can support twice as many phone lines as ATAs. As prices for the products drop, “gateways will simply offer more for less,” Arnold says.
VOIP endpoint sales will grow about two-thirds as much as the number of VOIP subscribers in the same period, Frost & Sullivan says. The firm predicts that the number of residential VOIP subscribers in the U.S. and Canada will rise from 100,000 last year to 12 million in 2007.
Frost & Sullivan’s report emphasizes that newcomers like Vonage -- and not incumbent carriers -- will lead the charge into VOIP. Of particular interest to the firm are peer-to-peer VOIP startups like Skyper Ltd., whose free Skype software lets people use PCs to talk over the Internet and bypass the public switched telephone network (PSTN) (see VCs Pump $18.8M Into Skype ). “Within a year or so, these services will be able to connect to the PSTN,” Arnold says. “Then the idea of making free phone calls to anybody is a pretty powerful proposition.”
The trouble is, Skyper will have to pay access fees to long-distance and local carriers, and so far, the company has yet to collect a penny from anyone who uses its free software (the company says over 11 million copies of its program have been downloaded). Skyper has told many reporters that it will eventually charge customers for premium features like PSTN termination.
— Justin Hibbard, Senior Editor, Light Reading