The Mobile VoIP "Problem"

Analysts at Juniper Research now estimate there will be about one billion users of mobile VoIP apps and services by about 2017. 

For some, that is an opportunity, though the magnitude of the opportunity might be questionable. 

For mobile service providers, mobile VoIP is probably more a problem than an opportunity.

"As with Skype on the desktop, only a very small proportion will pay for the service," Juniper Research says.  “Wi-Fi mobile VoIP is potentially the most damaging of all VoIP traffic, as it bypasses the mobile networks altogether."

“We forecast that mobile VoIP over Wi-Fi will cost operators $5 billion globally by 2015,” says Anthony Cox, Juniper Research analyst.

In fact, a recent forecast by Visiongain suggests 2012 mobile VoIP revenues will reach only about $2.5 billion, globally. 

“Many subscriber sign up to an OTT service without ever planning to pay a cent for it, and some industry players do not have a short-term revenue model at all,” says Cox.

Still,  researchers at Analysys have in the past predicted that, as early as 2012, mobile VoIP services would generate revenues of $18.6 billion (EUR15.3 billion) in the United States and $7.3 billion (EUR.6.0 billion) in Western Europe, compared with fixed VoIP revenues of $11.9 (EUR9.8 billion) in the United States and $6.9 billion (EUR5.7 billion) in Western Europe.

It seems doubtful those levels of revenue have been realized, though. In fact, analysts seem to have overestimated the revenue mobile VoIP would represent, rather consistently. 

In fact, though fourth generation networks and Long Term Evolution virtually require that carriers embrace IP-based voice, the business model is less certain, and could "potentially accelerate the decline in overall voice revenues," says Cox.

The question is how fast new and alternate revenue streams, such as advertising or premium features and services, can gain acceptance.

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