Skype, the voice over IP telephony service, will add more than double the number of international call-minutes than all other network operators combined.
New data from market analyst TeleGeography show that growth in international call traffic has slumped while international traffic routed via Skype continues to accelerate.
International phone traffic in 2010 grew an estimated 4% to 413 billion minutes, down from 5% growth in 2009, and a far cry from the 15% average growth rate achieved during the previous two decades.
TeleGeography blamed the deep recession of 2007-2009. This affected business demand for international communications and many consumers' ability to pay for international telephone calls, it said. Sharply lower calling card volumes reflected the tough times, it said, while a drop in traffic from the US to Central America helped drive global volumes down.
But internet-based voice services like Skype were a bigger and longer-term challenge to international carriers, TeleGeography said.
"Cross-border traffic routed by Skype, by far the largest provider of internet-based voice communications, is projected to grow by an astonishing 45 billion minutes in 2010 - more than twice the volume added by all of the world's phone companies, combined," it said.
"Demand for international communications remains strong," notes TeleGeography analyst Stephan Beckert. "But ever more people are discovering that they can communicate without the services of a telco."