In five years’ time, one billion people will be using voice-over IP (VoIP) services on their mobile phones, according to a new report from Juniper Research.
The number of people using so-called ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) services, which allow them to make free voice calls and send messages using their mobile Internet connections, currently stands at 160 million, the research firm said in its Mobile & Tablet Voice & Video Calling report.
But improvements in network technology, the growth of 4G services, increased competition and the move by telecoms operators to provide their own mobile VoIP services will see adoption grow more than six-fold to one billion by 2017.
To date, OTT services from third parties such as Skype, Viber and Tango have seen the greatest adoption. This poses a significant threat to the already dwindling voice revenues of the mobile telcos.
In the UK, while all of the four main mobile operators permit the use of VoIP services over their networks, only O2 offers its own OTT mobile VoIP service. Launched in May, the TU Me app allows iPhone and Android users to make telephone calls and send text messages to other users for free.
In a separate white paper, called mVoice of Reason, Juniper said mobile VoIP had "developed a reputation for poor quality of service, dropped calls and unsatisfactory user experience".
“Many subscribers sign up to an OTT service without ever planning to pay a cent for it, and some industry players do not have a short-term revenue model at all,” said Anthony Cox, author of the report.
The paper said that there is “no doubt that voice is gradually losing its special status as a revenue driver for operators”, and that improvements in call quality, in addition to traditional telcos joining third-parties in offering mobile OTT services, will lead to mobile VoIP increasing in popularity in the next five years.