Feature Article

December 26, 2012

36 Percent Mobile-Only US Households?

Some 35.8 percent of U.S. homes did not use or buy fixed network telephone service during the first half of 2012 – an increase of 1.8 percent since the second half of 2011, according to the latest survey and report by the Centers for Disease Control.

In addition, 15.9 percent of U.S. adults received all or almost all calls on wireless phones, despite also having a fixed network telephone service.

CDC does not claim the rate of substitution has slowed to 1.8 percent over the first six months of 2012 – that is the slowest rate of increase since 2008.

At current rates of change, in about a decade about 70 percent of U.S. adults may be "wireless only."

Globally, the shift to wireless for voice is even more pronounced, for obvious reasons. In much of the world, there is not a choice of networks. If one wants to make a phone call, and use voice, it’ll be on the mobile network.

But it’s already possible to predict that service providers will suffer revenue erosion, even for mobile voice. Juniper Research predicts the total number of mobile VoIP minutes will jump from 15 billion minutes in 2010 to 470.6 billion minutes by 2015.

The United States will account for 135 billion mobile VoIP minutes by 2015, Juniper Research says.

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

For mobile service providers, that’s not good news. Though many forecasters have been predicting significant mobile VoIP revenue, most if not all forecasts have fallen short in recent years, in large part because most of the activity seems to be “free” or “no incremental charge” use of over the top applications, not paid carrier mobile voice.

"As with Skype on the desktop, only a very small proportion will pay for the service," Juniper Research said. “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. “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,” said Cox.

In fact, a recent forecast by Visiongain suggests 2012 mobile VoIP revenues will reach only about $2.5 billion, globally. That is in many cases an order of magnitude less revenue than most analysts had expected would be generated by mobile VoIP, at this point in time.

Of course, that is in part because over the top mobile VoIP services do not generate all that much income.

Researchers at Analysys have in the past predicted that, as early as 2012, mobile VoIP services would generate revenue 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 is highly doubtful those levels of revenue have been realized, though. In fact, analysts seem to have overestimated the revenue mobile VoIP would represent, rather consistently.

Mobile substitution for fixed network voice is a problem now, but over the top cannibalization of mobile voice is the next coming problem for service providers.

Edited by Braden Becker

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