New data from telecom market research firm TeleGeography shows that international telephone traffic grew 5% in 2012, to 490 billion minutes. But as call volumes continue to grow, so do the challenges facing the international long-distance industry.
“International migration, the rapid uptake of mobile phones in developing countries, and steady reductions in international call prices—especially in the form of flat-rate (and even free) calling plans—have contributed to traffic increases,” says TeleGeography analyst Stephan Beckert. “Recent growth rates are well below the 13% average that carriers could count on to offset price declines over much of the past 20 years.”
While international phone traffic growth is slowing, traffic from voice and messaging applications like Skype continues to increase at a stunning pace. TeleGeography estimates that cross-border Skype-to-Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent in 2012, to 167 billion minutes. This increase of nearly 51 billion minutes is more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined.
“The pressure on carriers will continue to mount in the coming years, says Beckert. “While Skype is the best-known voice application, it’s far from the only challenger to the PSTN – Google (Talk and Voice), WeChat (Weixin), Viber, Nimbuzz, Line, and KakaoTalk have also become popular.”
And, perhaps most ominously for telcos, Facebook recently added a free voice calling feature to its Messenger application.