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Skype is biggest international telco

If we're counting free minutes across the internet

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VoIP outfit Skype is now handling more international voice minutes than anyone else - the eBay-owned operation is responsible for eight percent of the world's chat time.

Skype handled 33 billion cross-border minutes during 2008, a jump of 41 per cent against an industry that increased traffic by twelve per cent to 384 billion minutes, according to TeleGeography's annual report.

But Skype isn't giving everything away: 8.4 billion of those minutes were Skype-out, calls made to traditional phone lines: so the company has revenue, if not profit.

While it may be the largest supplier of VoIP Skype doesn’t dominate the market: other VoIP providers were responsible for 23 per cent of international minutes, leaving traditional switched-circuit connections handling only 69 per cent of calls - down from 73 per cent during 2007.

VoIP has certainly driven operators to cut prices, meaning that the increase in international calling hasn't led to any significant increase in revenue, but that's always been the great thing about VoIP: even people who don't use it are gaining from the lower prices we're all paying for phone calls.

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