107M Mobile VoIP Users Expected by 2012

June 1, 2010

The number of global mobile voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) users will reach 107 million by 2012, according to [pdf] a white paper from Juniper Research.

Mobile VoIP Grows in Importance
VoIP is becoming an increasingly important driver for change among mobile operators, according to “Mobile Voice – Whispers of Change.” More efficient handsets with faster data speeds are enabling VoIP on mobile networks, and WiFi is becoming capable of voice carriage, which will enable third parties to start offering mobile VoIP services.

Juniper Research defines mobile VoIP as the carriage of voice traffic over mobile networks using the internet protocol (IP) usually via an enabling technology called SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Mobile VoIP differs from circuit switched mobile telephony in that an end-to-end connection between two carriers does not need to be established. With VoIP, in simple terms, the voice call is fragmented into packets at the call initiators end, transferred over the internet, and reassembled at the call destination.

Since no end-to-end link is required for the duration of the call, mobile VoIP renders obsolete the interconnection and roaming agreements that mobile operators around the world have forged with one another, thereby resulting in a far cheaper mode of voice carriage for the end user.

3G Aids Mobile VoIP Expansion
Juniper Research forecasts the number of mobile VoIP users to exceed 100 million by the end of 2010. Of 107 million mobile VoIP users expected by 2012, more than half will reside in North America and Europe, owing to the fact that 3G, which is required for mobile VoIP to be effective, has been rolled out in those regions.


The Far East and China will account for most of the remaining mobile VoIP growth during the next two years, followed by the rest of Asia-Pacific. Africa and the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Latin America will round out the remaining growth, with roughly equal percentages.

By 2012, there will be significant uptake of mobile VoIP. Juinper predicts growth will be divided among different methods, with both 3G and WiFi networks supporting mobile VoIP apps. In addition, Juniper says several mobile operators are developing relationships with mobile VoIP players such as Skype and Truphone.

Pricing Will Keep Falling
While the pressure on voice pricing is most acute in developed markets, where penetration rates have reached or surpassed 100%, emerging markets operators also see margin pressure on their voice business. Juniper says this is largely because, in order to increase their subscriber base, they will have to offer services to those that until now have been unable to afford mobile telephony.

In terms of pricing, the value of voice will continue to come down in value, Juniper predicts. However, increasingly, voice will not be able to be seen in isolation from the broader voice and data universe. While operators may charge nominally less for the voice part of a subscription, competitive pricing for voice will only be available if it is sold as part of a broader data and voice package.

The end-user will almost certainly get increased value, but may also be paying a similar amount, or, in certain instances more, for their overall communications bill.

HD Mobile Voice Surge Expected in ’14
Despite mobile VoIP growth, the usage of HD mobile handsets is expected to gradually but steadily increase between now and 2015, according to ABI Research. Usage of HD mobile handsets, which a barely registerable number of worldwide mobile subscribers began acquiring in 2009, is expected to trickle upward through the rest of this year and the first half of 2011.

By the second half of 2011, the North American and Asia-Pacific markets are expected to drive incremental but notable growth in mobile handset usage. However, by the end of 2011, total worldwide users of mobile HD handsets should still total less than 20 million.

Growth is forecast to continue at a slight pace in 2012, with the Western European market providing most of the increase. In 2013, the total number of worldwide mobile HD handset users should jump to around 40 million, with a surge in Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern users offsetting plateaus in North American and Western European users.

Following the ramp-up in mobile HD handset usage in 2013, an explosion in mobile HD handset subscribers is expected to occur in 2014, with strong increases in the Asia-Pacific and North American markets driving global numbers. The total number of worldwide subscribers should reach close to 150 million by the end of the year.

In 2015, exponential growth in Asia-Pacific and North America will push the worldwide mobile HD voice market to an estimated 487 million. The Asia-Pacific market should be about 25% larger than the North American market.


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