US, Japan and France lead VoIP subscribers

01 January 2011 |

Point Topic reveals that by the end of September 2009 VoIP subscriptions had grown by 15% in the first three quarters of the year to pass the 100 million milestone. The number is close to 110 million today, according to the research firm.

The US keeps the top spot with over 22 million subscribers paying for VoIP services, many over cable, at the end of Q3 2009, just ahead of Japan. In terms of penetration, however, it is France that is way ahead of the pack, with over 38% of all its fixed-line calls delivered over VoIP, according to Point Topic. In contrast, South Korea, ranked sixth in subscriber terms, had about 18% of its fixed-line calls on IP by September 2009. A spokesman from Point Topic explained that the French market’s acceptance of the technology was largely fuelled by the country’s unbundling strategy, while Japan “led in VoIP principally because of a deal Yahoo Japan/Softbank rolled out two years ago which provides VoIP in such a way that the customer doesn’t notice they are using an alternative technology.”

Soft client VoIP services like Skype add another dimension to the VoIP market. For Q3 2009, Skype reported 27.7 billion PC-to-PC minutes, in addition to 3.1 billion Skype Out minutes, which are calls terminating on normal phone lines or mobiles. Skype had an income for the 12 months to Q3 2009 totalling $653 million. Although that is only equivalent to the revenue of a small telco, it should be remembered that almost 90% of the traffic that Skype carries generates no revenue at all, noted Point Topic.

VoIP has taken longer to take hold than many had first expected. There have been technical issues, by no means resolved even today, regulatory barriers and customer inertia. Many operators have reduced their standard tariffs to cope with the threat of VoIP, which reduces the incentive to switch. Conditions that should allow for faster growth in the next couple of years are starting to become common, especially when VoIP is provided for a low price in a bundle with broadband and TV, according to Point Topic.