Since launching some 20 years ago, VoIP has become one of the most powerful and popular technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries. From business phones to social messaging apps with millions of users, VoIP has become an underlying technology that powers the way we connect with each other across the world.
In that time, what has changed is:
- Mobile has taken over
- WebRTC is now added into the equation
- Voice continues to grow
So where will VoIP go next? Let’s investigate how each of these will impact the future of VoIP in the coming years.
Where is VoIP today?
By 2017, VoIP is expected to be valued at $82.7 billion, growing at 6% CAGR. On top of this, according to the website Telecom Reseller, VoIP is one of the top performing industries of this decade, along with biotechnology and ecommerce. Interestingly, wired telecommunications is one of the worst.
VoIP is well used across the world, from popular apps like WeChat, helping connect rural communities in Africa, and reducing costs for businesses making long distance calls. With this growth in the early years, VoIP traffic rapidly expanded from 1–3% of all voice calls in 1998–2002 to 25% of voice calls in 2003. With providers such as Skype and consumer VoIP, growth was rapid-
Mobile has taken over
Since 2008, mobile has grown to dominate the tech market. Benedict Evans describes this as “mobile…eating the world” and dwarfing the PC market.
This is a crucial element for VoIP, as mobile VoIP or mVoIP has changed the way we think and use VoIP in todays market, and will continue to alter the future of VoIP. WeChat, Facebook, Kik and others are all using VoIP in their messaging apps, and now that millions of users are using VoIP in their daily lives, this has acted as a driving force behind others adopting the technology.
With this in mind, it seems the future of VoIP is positive, with more opportunities for growth outside of the social messaging market. Business collaboration tools, dating apps and customer service can start to use VoIP as a technology that now has a much lower bar to entry than in previous years.
WebRTC is now added into the equation
When Google launched WebRTC to the pubic in 2011, the future of VoIP was changed again. Using WebRTC, developers and businesses could enhance their applications with VoIP technology without the need for specialized applications and codecs. WebRTC packaged a whole solution and made VoIP easer than ever before to build and develop with.
WebRTC presents an interesting challenge, in that it acts as a rival to VoIP but also a potential partner, with both technologies able to work together and add voice to applications. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
What is interesting to see is that VoIP has seen a reduction in its popularity since WebRTC came to market. Looking at this Google Trends graph for 2010–2015, VoIP popularity seems to be falling whilst WebRTC is (moderately) growing.
Voice continues to grow
Since 1994, voice traffic has continued to grow, accelerated in 2001 with Skype. Later with the iPhone and the App Store, voice calling became popular in messaging apps like Viber, Kik, WeChat and others.
Using VoIP, developers could start adding voice calling capabilities to their applications with a new, growing, mobile audience. We have previously written about 2015 being the year that voice becomes more popular in more apps, and so the future of VoIP is bright.
Where will the future of VoIP go next?
With voice becoming more mainstream and WebRTC being the popular kid on the block, many think that the next few years will become a clash between VoIP and WebRTC.
I don’t think that VoIP is going anywhere. With this technology being much easier to access now with a range of voice calling providers, voice calling with become a new feature in many apps in verticals we had not considered before. Dating has a great potential, businesses can start offering responsive, mobile friendly customer service and travel businesses can revolutionize the app, mobile and digital experience offering VoIP powered calling. Google has seen great usage of mobile calling in their AdWords “Click to Call” feature, with some 40% of UK searchers making 40 million calls a month with it.
The future of VoIP looks promising and I can’t wait to see what developers and businesses do with it!