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OTT voice traffic reaches 1 trillion minutes in 2019 – report

It probably comes as a surprise to no one that international call traffic has continued to decline, while use of over-the-top (OTT) chat and social media applications is rising.

According to an update from TeleGeography, international OTT voice traffic reached 1 trillion minutes in 2019, compared to just 432 billion minutes of international carrier traffic.

The research company said both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger topped 1.3 billion monthly active users in 2019. TeleGeography estimates that seven communications apps – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ, Viber, Line and KakaoTalk – accounted for more than a combined 5 billion monthly users in September 2019.

This is all having an unfortunate effect on operator voice revenue. Paul Brodsky, senior analyst at TeleGeography, said international carrier voice revenue is being directly impacted by the availability of free OTT services and changing user behavior. "Over the last 20 years, social calling has replaced business communications as the primary driver for international long-distance minutes volume," Brodsky added.

TeleGeography estimates that international voice revenues have declined from $99 billion at their peak in 2012 to just $60 billion in 2019. At the current rate of decline, international service revenues are set to fall to $50 billion by 2024.

The report added that Vodafone, Tata Communications, Orange, Tofane/iBasis, Deutsche Telekom, BICS, Telefonica, Telecom Italia and IDT transported more than 20 billion minutes of traffic, down from 31 billion in 2015. Only two terminated more traffic in 2018 than in 2017.

Meanwhile, the spread of COVID-19 is already having a huge impact on WhatsApp usage figures and more, and operators are generally under pressure to keep networks running in the face of huge demand. It also seems that voice has become popular again, at least for smartphone users: Telefónica reported increases of up to 50% in mobile voice use, and is now recommending that customers switch to using their fixed home phone – if they still have one, of course.

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— Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

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