February 7, 2007 -- A study from ABI Research predicts that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone services, which last year counted less than 38 million subscribers worldwide, will have a subscriber base of over 267 million by 2012.
"Hosted service providers, the pioneers of commercial VoIP, are going to grow to some extent, but it will be cable operators and other broadband providers trying to leverage their high speed data networks who will really push VoIP in the future," forecasts Michael Arden, principal broadband analyst for ABI. "These operators want to add value to their broadband 'pipes,' and they want to generate new revenues over and above what they earn from their basic data services."
Further, Arden contends that while traditional telcos have been slow to embrace VoIP due to such factors as their huge investment in conventional telephone networks, desire for total control of service quality, and fear of upsetting their existing customer relationships, the development of VoIP markets will play out differently in the world's major regions.
"In the US, it's driven by competition," he explains. "Cable operators are offering VoIP, hoping to take some customers away from the telephone companies. Eventually the cable operators will start offering converged services, and to compete, the telcos will have to go to VoIP as well."
However, Arden continues, "In Europe, though, many telecom operators are currently upgrading and implementing Ethernet networks for increased operational efficiencies. (BT is doing this on a huge scale right now.) When they do so, they're taking VoIP into consideration and making it part of their network upgrade. Meanwhile in Japan, the drive isn't coming from the telecom operators or even from the cable operators, it's really the third-party broadband players such as SoftBank."
The study finds that consumers' decisions to switch to VoIP telephony are at present based largely on its lower cost and the offer of simplified billing - reasons which Arden sees as temporary. By around the end of the decade, he believes, the driving motivation for adoption of the technology will be how VoIP telephony is converged with video, online gaming and other services.
The ABI Research study, "Residential IP Telephony" provides an overview of the residential VoIP market as delivered by cable, telecom, satellite, and hosted operators. The report also presents an assessment of business drivers for residential VoIP service and vendor relationships for more than 350 VoIP operators around the world.
The study forms part of the firm's Broadband Networks Research Service.