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VoLTE taking off absent an immediate business case; Japan's Line overtakes Skype

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Note -- this news article is more than a year old.

The number of voice over LTE (VoLTE) commercial services launched to date slowly crawled to 8 in June 2014, up from 4 last year, and 3 in South Korea in 2012. As a result, there were 12 million VoLTE subscribers worldwide in 2013, mostly in South Korea, according to Infonetics Research.

By year's end, Infonetics expects an additional 30 commercial VoLTE networks to launch and VoLTE subscribers to increase to 51 million.

"VoLTE rollouts are taking off, but there is no business case for it yet, and dubbing it as 'HD voice' is misleading because there are already 100 high-definition (HD) voice networks running on HSPA around the world. And Africa has the best HD voice networks!" notes Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.

In 2013, there were 1.5 billion mobile VoIP (mVoIP) subscribers worldwide, the bulk via over the-top (OTT) applications. The majority of OTT mVoIP application usage continues to be dominated by Asia Pacifica after a shift in 2012; the region boasts a mobile broadband penetration rate of over 100%. Particularly, the use of OTT mVoIP is skyrocketing in China, South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia

Diane Myers, co-author of the report and Infonetics' principal analyst for VoIP, UC, and IMS, adds: "In the highly dynamic over-the-top mobile VoIP market, Japan-based Line has topped Skype as the market leader, capturing roughly a quarter of worldwide active users in 2013. Line's been able to successfully think outside the traditional voice box, offering paid services through application add ons like games and stickers that not only create a revenue stream, but also increase usage of core services."

Despite a 12% 2013-2018 CAGR for OTT mVoIP service revenue, most providers in this space are making very little money per user - an unsustainable business model for many independent companies, the report concluded.

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