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US VoIP subscribers 21 million strong

Skype not included

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The US Federal Communications Commission reports that there are 21 million VoIP subscriptions stateside, and that the vast majority of them are residential customers. But it didn't count Skype subscribers.

These figures were announced by the FCC to accompany the release of its highly detailed 31-page report, "Local Telephone Competition". The report, however, isn't exactly what you might call "fresh" — although it was released just last Friday, its data set ends on December 31, 2008.

Don't expect 2010 numbers to be higher than end-of-2008 numbers, however. In a report published earlier this year, analysts at the Dell'Oro group said the the VoIP market had suffered greatly in recent years due to the market meltdown, and was only beginning to recover — or even stabilize — in 2010.

The FCC's report come with one enormous caveat that it buries in a footnote: the stats don't include Skype subscribers, but only phone-to-phone communications that enable customers "to receive calls that originate on the public switched telephone network and to terminate calls to the public switched telephone network." This omission doesn't render the numbers meaningless — it just means that there's a lot more VoIPing going on than the FCC reports.

According to the FCC, at the end of 2008, there were a total of 162 million wireline telephone connections in the US. Among those, 141 million were what the FCC calls "traditional switched access lines". The remainder were VoIP.

Of the VoIP lines, over 19 million were residential subscriptions, and a mere 2 million were in businesses. Switched-access phone service in residential settings had a four-to-one advantage over VoIP. In business, that advantage was over 30 to one.

VoIP and wireline stats for business and residential subscribers

Skypeless VoIP is making inroads into far more homes than businesses — at least at the end of 2008

Of all VoIP subscribers, 81 per cent received their service bundled with internet access, and 92 per cent of all VoIPers were connected over a cable modem.

The vast majority of VoIP service is provided by relative newcomers. The old guard — what the FCC refers to as ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers), meaning telephone companies that were already in existence when AT&T was broken up into the "Baby Bells" in 1984 — accounted for just over 500,000 VoIP lines at the the end of 2008, while non-ILEC services accounted for over 20 million. ®

Bootnote

Did the FCC really require a full year and a half to collect and analyze telephone-usage data? Perhaps the statisticians who prepared the report liken it to fine wine or a zesty Pecorino Romano: aged to perfection.

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