Mobile VOIP to Reach 139 Million Users by 2014: In-Stat

In-Stat expects mobile VOIP to reach 139 million users by 2014. Integration in social-networking services, along with cheap international calls, is spurring growth.

Mobile voice over IP use is expected to rise to nearly 139 million users by 2014, according to a new report from In-Stat.

Thanks to companies such as Skype, Fring and Google, mobile VOIP (voice over IP) technology has been gaining popularity over the last five years, as an inexpensive option for placing international calls. Now, the research firm said in a Jan. 31 statement, it's becoming an integrated component of unified social-networking services.

"Mobile VOIP is gaining real market presence with usage rates climbing rapidly," In-Stat market analyst Amy Cravens said in the statement. "As it becomes further incorporated into other mobile apps, specifically social networking apps, the real of potential use is expected to broaden."Earlier this year, in a Jan. 12 statement, In-Stat forecast that the transition of VOIP from fixed-line phones to more mobile phones will encourage spending in the space to rise to $6 billion by 2015, creating a "significant opportunity" for equipment suppliers. Also encouraging such growth will be enterprise users, whose mobile phones will increasingly be able to act as extensions of their office desk phones.Skype, despite its 600-million-plus users, is feeling the heat of Google's aggressive entry in the space, and on Jan. 6 officially acquired Qik for $100 million. The software enables users on an Apple iPhone, RIM BlackBerry device or other smartphones, to conduct two-way video calls, as well as record and share video via email, various messaging platforms and social-networking sites such as Facebook.In-Stat's Jan. 12 report added that mobile operators-which have feared for their bottom lines as they watch traffic diverted from their networks-will find new ways to embrace the technology and become significant contributors to the technology's growth.The firm's latest report seconded this idea, adding that operators will nonetheless "remain guarded" in how mobile VOIP usages are introduced. It also found, in a consumer survey, that T-Mobile subscribers used mobile VOIP more than other mobile subscribers-"nearly twice that of total responders," the report said.The EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region will account for the largest portion of mobile VOIP revenues in 2014 (39 percent), followed by Asia/Pacific, at 32 percent, and North America, accounting for 21 percent.Mobile VOIP's move into new applications, particularly social-networking apps, said Cravens, has "created a great deal of jockeying among mobile VOIP players trying to develop market share and mobile operators trying to determine the best response to this potentially disruptive service offering."