Report: Skype makes up one-third of all international phone traffic

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Skype unit grew its international traffic by 44 percent in 2012, more than twice the volume growth achieved by all the phone companies in the world combined, according to a report from TeleGeography. The report found that global Skype usage is now equivalent to over one-third of all international phone traffic, Skype's highest level ever.

The report, which looks at trends in the international long distance market, highlights the growth of Skype and other over-the-top communication service providers. TeleGeography found that that "international telephone traffic grew 5 percent in 2012, to 490 billion minutes," while at the same time "cross-border Skype-to-Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent in 2012, to 167 billion minutes. This increase of nearly 51 billion minutes is more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined." That means Skype traffic represented 34 percent of all international phone traffic last year, the firm said.

The above shows international call volumes and growth rates, 1992-2012, according to TeleGeography. The firm said data for 2012 are projections based on preliminary data. VoIP traffic reflects international traffic transported as VoIP by carriers, and excludes PC-to-PC traffic.

"The pressure on carriers will continue to mount in the coming years," TeleGeography analyst Stephan Beckert said in a statement. "While Skype is the best-known voice application, it's far from the only challenger to the PSTN. Google (Talk and Voice), WeChat (Weixin), Viber, Nimbuzz, Line, and KakaoTalk have also become popular. And, perhaps most ominously for telcos, Facebook recently added a free voice calling feature to its Messenger application."

However, TeleGeography noted that not all of Skype's traffic represents a loss for traditional carriers, since over 40 percent of Skype's traffic is now video, "and it's likely that a meaningful share of this is 'new' traffic, rather than a direct replacement for a telephone call. However, given their enormous traffic volume, it's difficult not to conclude that at least some of Skype's growth is coming at the expense of traditional carriers."

TeleGeography found that if all of Skype's on-net traffic had been routed via traditional telcos, global international telephone traffic would have increased 14 percent in 2011 and 13 percent in 2012, rather than the 5 percent the market experienced in 2012.

In other Skype news, the company has started testing video messaging for iOS, Android, and Mac devices. The new video feature lets Skype users send up to three minutes of video to each other.

A Skype spokesperson said that the company's video messaging "is in early release for testing in several markets for Android, iOS, and Mac with functionality to send and receive video messages. Users in these markets across all Windows desktop and mobile platforms can receive messages, too. We will have send capability in Windows by end of April. In the meantime, we continue to test this new feature in its early release."

For more:
- see this TeleGeography report (PDF)
- see this Ars Technica article
- see this CNET article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this The Verge article

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Article updated Feb. 15 with a comment from a Skype spokesperson on Skype's video messaging.