Home Business IT Business Telecommunications Most of the growth in international voice traffic is coming from Skype

Most of the growth in international voice traffic is coming from Skype

Calls on Skype are quickly supplanting conventional international voice calls.

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.

And if Skype’s traffic were added to the volume of international phone calls, international voice traffic would have grown 13% in 2012, in line with historical trends. This suggests that although demand for cross-border communications has not declined, an ever growing number of callers have chosen to take telcos out of the equation. Skype now accounts for around one quarter of all international call minutes.

“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.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.