iPhone5The number of over-the-top (OTT) mobile VoIP subscribers more than quintupled worldwide in 2012, rising 550% to more than 640 million, according to Infonetics Research.  Service operators aren’t making much money, however: average revenue per user (ARPU) totaled just $7.13 annually, the research firm said.

An annual ARPU of $7.13 isn’t evidence of a sustainable business model. As a result, most mobile VoIP service providers “are turning to advertising, third-party apps and wholesale arrangements with traditional operators” in the search for revenue and profits, Infonetics’ principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS Diane Myers pointed out in a press release.

Though Skype continues to dominate the global mobile OTT VoIP market, the field is getting crowded as newer entrants, such as “Fring, Kakao Talk, Line, Nimbuzz, WeChat and Viber gain in strength,” Myers commented.

Mobile VoIP based on VoLTE from mobile operators is a different story. Subscriber numbers currently are smaller than for mobile OTT VoIP, according to Infonetics. But VoLTE services likely generate more revenues per subscriber. And both VoLTE subscribers and VoLTE revenues are set to boom, according to Infonetics.

Noting the success of SK Telecom’s VoLTE service – 3.6 million subscribers joined in April 2013 – Infonetics has raised its 2013 VoLTE forecast. “We now expect 12 commercial VoLTE networks and 8 million VoLTE subscribers by year-end, with about three-quarters of those in the Asia-Pacific,” principal analyst and co-author of Infonetics’ latest “Mobile VoIP Services and Subscribers” report Stephane Teral stated.

Other report highlights:

  • Microsoft/Skype had roughly 40% of all active users of OTT mobile VoIP services in 2012
  • Infonetics projects the number of VoLTE subscribers to grow at a 145% compound annual growth rate from 2012 to 2017
  • Combined, over-the-top mobile VoIP and VoLTE services are expected to become a $16 billion business by 2017
Image courtesy of flickr user VoIPman.

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