SK Telecom's ongoing success with VoLTE adoption prompted Infonetics Research to up its 2013 VoLTE forecast, which now calls for 12 commercial VoLTE networks and 8 million VoLTE subscribers by year-end, with about three-quarters of those in Asia Pacific.
South Korea's SK Telecom, which launched VoLTE in August 2012, reported 3.6 million subscribers using the service in April 2013. Infonetics projects the number of global VoLTE subscribers will expand at a 145 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017. U.S. carrier MetroPCS and South Korean operator LG U+ also launched VoLTE the same week as SK Telecom, leading the three to wrestle over bragging rights as the operator launching the world's first VoLTE service.
AT&T (NYSE:T) has pledged to launch VoLTE in some U.S. markets by year's end, while Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is targeting 2014 for its VoLTE launch.
Nonetheless, VoLTE has gotten off to a slow start overall, as provisioning of circuit-switched fallback (CSFB) to support voice in an LTE environment has contributed to delayed deployments of VoLTE. In addition, mobile operators' VoLTE services still have to compete against over-the-top (OTT) VoIP services from companies such as Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype, which accounted for roughly 40 percent of all active OTT mobile VoIP services users during 2012.
"While Skype dominates the over-the-top mobile VoIP space, the market is seeing other applications such as Fring, KakaoTalk, Line, Nimbuzz, WeChat and Viber gain in strength," said Diane Myers, Infonetics' principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS. "
Interestingly, Myers noted that most OTT mVoIP providers rake in very little money per user. "In 2012, the average revenue per user was a meager $7.13 annually. Since this alone is an unsustainable business model, most providers are turning to advertising, third-party apps and wholesale arrangements with traditional operators," she said.
Infonetics' data shows that the number of global OTT mobile VoIP subscribers leaped more than 550 percent during 2012, exceeding 640 million, and is expected to approach the 1 billion mark in 2013. Taken together, over-the-top mobile VoIP and VoLTE services are slated to become a $16 billion business by 2017, said the firm.
- see this Infonetics release
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