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5G voice users to reach 2.5bn globally by 2026, creating new business services and competition for OTT

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The total number of voice-over-5G users will reach 2.5 billion globally by 2026; rising from only 290 million in 2022. This remarkable growth of 780% will be driven by the acceleration of 5G roll-outs following a slowing during the pandemic.

Voice-over-5G leverages the software-based nature of 5G networks to offer APIs for business voice services over operator networks.

The new research, Mobile Voice Strategies: Future Monetisation Opportunities & Market Forecasts 2022-2026, urges operators to capitalise on the growth of Voice-over-5G users to create a new portfolio of voice services. It recommends that operators prioritise interactive calling, intelligent call routing, and the integration of AI-based IVR (Interactive Voice Services) as these provide the most immediate return on investment of Voice-over-5G.

5G to enable operators to compete with OTT apps

In particular, the report identified interactive calling as a key opportunity for operators who have launched 5G to provide more valuable voice services and compete with OTT voice apps. Interactive calling leverages 5G networks to offer advanced voice calling functionality, including interactive content and screensharing, directly in the native calling app on smartphones, thus negating the need for third‑party applications.

Current 4G voice technology, VoLTE (Voice-over-LTE), is not sufficient to support interactive calling. Whilst there are currently over 4.4 billion VoLTE users, representing over 50% of subscribers, the lower speed of 4G networks in comparison to 5G networks has thus far restricted the use of interactive features or AI in operators’ voice services.

Voice revenue still forecast to decline

Despite the growth of Voice-over-5G, the report forecasts that operator-billed voice revenue will decline by 16% over the next four years, as P2P voice traffic migrates to third-party voice apps.

It urges operators to capitalise on the growth of 5G to develop new business‑oriented voice services, such as interactive calling. 5G-based voice services must emulate operators’ current business messaging solutions by levying the cost on enterprises, rather than monetising mobile subscriber usage.

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