By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Residential VoIP subscriptions will balloon from a base of 38 million users worldwide to more than 267 million in 2012, according to ABI Research.
In a statement released with the finding, broadband analyst Michael Arden noted that cable operators and broadband providers "will really push VoIP into the future" and that in the United States competition from cable operators looking to take business from the telephone companies will drive VoIP subs.
Such a dynamic is clearly well underway. Comcast announced this month that it added over 1.5 million Digital Voice customers in 2006 vs. just 290,000 the year before. At the same time, Verizon, which overlaps part of Comcast's market, reported that it lost more than half a million residential phone lines.
And just as conventional VoIP bleeds the residential landline business, voice over instant messaging (VoIM) will take a bite out of VoIP, according to a study from the market research firm Light Reading.
The extent to which VoIM providers could fully supplant VoIP providers is unclear, as many consumers use both for different needs, said research analyst Denise Culver. Still, VoIP providers are vulnerable, the report noted, particularly in the long distance market.
Though 79 million people in North America use an instant messaging service, the voice component is underutilized to date because of the lack of interoperability, the report noted.
Culver told TWICE that hardware will be a "significant factor" driving the VoIM business in the future.
"The more that providers embrace hardware that makes the VoIM vocal experience as much like the PSTN vocal experience, the more the industry will grow," she said. Firms that focus less on headsets but on "products like dual-mode cordless and wireless phones" will reap larger successes, she predicted.
"The importance of hardware can be seen in the number of computer manufacturers that now include features like webcams, built-in speakers and built-in microphones as basic features."
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