Internet telephony player Skype is costing mobile operators some $100 million a day, according to new research about the impact of over-the-top (OTT) players on the telecoms industry.
Commissioned by messaging specialist Tyntec, and carried out by market-research company mobilesquared, the study reveals that some 280 million users now spend about two billion minutes a day on Skype (Luxembourg City, Luxembourg), and that 43% of mobile operators regard the company as a major threat to their revenues, especially since it won the backing of Microsoft in 2011.
Moreover, by 2017, the overall OTT market is set to be worth about $53.7 billion, serving 2.1 billion smartphone users around the world, more than two thirds of the entire smartphone customer base.
Some 14% of the operators interviewed by mobilesquared said that messaging revenues had declined by more than 21% in the past year due to the adoption of OTT services by their customers, while just 36% reported no decline in messaging revenue, compared with 62% in 2012.
Increasingly, operators are responding to the OTT threat by forming partnerships with OTT players instead of trying to compete against them.
In 2012, just 21% of operators expressed interest in providing their own OTT services, down from 26% in 2012, while 36% said they were partnering with OTT players, compared with 32% last year.
The report attributes this trend to the problems operators have experienced with initiatives like RCS-e, a standard backed by the GSM Association that was intended to help operators develop OTT services but has been plagued by interoperability issues and delays to commercial rollout.
“The move towards working in partnership with OTT providers instead of blocking or imposing surcharges looks like an increasingly favourable strategy,” said Jose Garcia, vice president of sales and carrier relations at Tyntec. “Whilst it does present some threats for mobile operators, there are also lucrative opportunities to take advantage of – built on assets that operators already have in place, such as renting mobile numbers or terminating OTT traffic.”
The research also found that China is the world’s biggest OTT market, with some 445.9 million users, followed by the USA, Brazil, India and Germany.
China’s lead is largely explained by the popularity of WeChat, which serves 400 million customers.