International over-the-top (OTT) voice traffic reached 1 trillion minutes in 2019, compared to just 432 billion minutes of international carrier traffic – and that is before we all started Skyping on lockdown.
So finds TeleGeography, a global telecommunications market research and consulting firm, which has completed annual update to its TeleGeography Report and Database with refreshed pricing, revenues, traffic volumes and other key performance indicators (KPIs) in the international voice market.
International voice revenues are estimated to have declined from $99 billion at their peak in 2012 to just $60 billion in 2019. At the current rate of decline, international service revenues will fall to $50 billion by 2024, with the market losing roughly half of its value in just 12 years.
“International carrier voice revenue is being directly impacted by the availability of free OTT services and changing user behaviours. Over the last 20 years, social calling has replaced business communications as the primary driver for international long-distance minutes volumes. OTTs have only accelerated what affordable mobile phones started in the early 2000s,” says Paul Brodsky, Senior Analyst at TeleGeography.
TeleGeography estimates that just seven communications apps—WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ, Viber, Line, and KakaoTalk—combined for over 5 billion monthly users in September 2019. Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger topped 1.3 billion monthly active users in 2019, and WeChat had just over an estimated 1 billion active users in September 2019.
“Retail international call revenues will continue to decline as OTTs capture greater market share while seeing growing traffic volumes. OTTs have a growing global user base matched with a free service offering that is dominating consumer voice traffic,” says Brodsky. “While retail prices were essentially unchanged in 2018, at about $0.15 per minute, they declined in 2019 as traditional voice carriers continue to see traffic volumes decrease. It’s a challenging time to be in international voice after the high watermark of 2012.”
The top carriers in international voice in terms of traffic volume are Vodafone, Tata Communications, Orange, Tofane/iBasis, Deutsche Telekom, BICS, Telefonica, Telecom Italia and IDT. These top eight carriers transported more than 20 billion minutes of traffic, down from 31 billion in 2015. Only two terminated more traffic in 2018 than in 2017.