Friday, December 10, 2004

Good enough for free

There sure is plenty of good stuff to be had for free on the internet. Take Skype as an obvious example. Or take some of the little teasers that research vendors put out to entice subscribers.

For example Point Topic's updates on global DSL lines (85m in Q3) and voice-over-broadband users (now over 5m). This 5m figure includes only subscribers to the estimated 1,000 commercial services operating worldwide, and excludes Skype. Four million of these users are in Japan. Despite whatever figures Skype may put into the market about users, the concurrent user number hovers around 1.1 - 1.2m recently in my experience, suggesting Skype users at any given time outnumber all the other non-Japanese services combined - everywhere.

Or try (registration required) Telegeography's free executive summaries, which are quite interesting. Their projection of VoIP traffic (which only includes VoIP minutes terminating on the PSTN) for 2004 is 30bn minutes, or 82m minutes per day. At 22m minutes per day currently, Skype on-net minutes are equivalent to over a quarter of "commercial" international VoIP traffic. Commercial VoIP traffic accounts for around 13% of total international minutes on Telegeography's figures (actually it's bound to be higher because international switched minutes include FAX traffic). So, that would seem to indicate that Skype on-net usage is now equivalent to 3.5% of international minutes on any given day.

So, let's get this straight. A Swede, a Dane, a handful of Estonians (not Etonians) and a few other assorted Europeans and mid-Atlantic types, with no gleaming corporate tower, company jet, or flag, have taken at least 3.5% of the international voice market - and generated zero traffic revenue in the process. What's the other 96% of the market worth?

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