Retail VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) subscriber numbers more than doubled during 2006, from 19 million to 40 million worldwide according to the latest research from Point Topic. "2006 was the year when VoIP really began to gain traction in many consumer markets," says John Bosnell, Senior Analyst at Point Topic.
"If you add in the PC to phone and PC to PC clients, like Skype, we estimate the global number is over 50 million regular VoIP users," says Bosnell.
Japan was the leading country at the end of 2006 with 13.75 million VoIP subscribers. The USA had 8.9 million subscribers, and France reported 6.6 million.
"It is however still a maturing market. For example VoIP is regulated in a variety of ways in the developed world. Many countries, such as Japan, the USA, France and Sweden have adopted a liberal approach, some countries continue to consult on how best to regulate it, and VoIP is even illegal in some developing countries," continues Bosnell.
"There are operators around the world reporting huge growth, over 600, 700 and even 800% in subscriber numbers, it will be difficult to repeat in 2007 but VoIP has definitely arrived," concludes Bosnell.
Compiling VoIP subscriber numbers is not an exact science. Different operators and regulators use different definitions of IP telephony. VoIP activity can be measured in terms of lines, revenues or minutes carried.
Point Topic has counted residential voice subscriptions in our analysis. These are services that provide full telephone functionality. They have a telephone number (which may be geographic or non-geographic) that someone can call from a standard PSTN phone. These services also offer the ability to call a PSTN number, as with a standard POTS (plain old telephone service) line.
Point Topic does not include calls carried over an IP-VPN from one business site to another site of the same business. We also do not include telephony traffic that is carried on trunk networks as IP traffic (for example by a calling card provider). Whilst we have included a discussion of Skype, PC-to-PC VoIP is difficult to measure in terms of subscribers.