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OTT challenge to see mobile operators lose voice over next five years

Harsh times predicted for voice services over the next five years as revenues are expected to nearly halve, but operators stand to be partially offset by nascent 5G-based offers

As mobile users continue to prefer what are described as more flexible and free over-the-top (OTT) services, mobile operator voice revenue is being projected to plunge 45% to $208bn by 2024, according to a study from Juniper Research.

The research, Mobile voice: emerging opportunities for operators & vendors 2019-2024, forecasts that third-party OTT voice services will continue to grow over that time, nearing 4.5 billion users by 2024.

Yet while this trend will contribute to declining voice revenue for operators, 5G proliferation is set to propel a number of nascent mobile voice and video services, generating fresh revenue streams for service providers.

The likely key driver of the expected precipitous collapse in revenues is what is calculated to be an 88% increase in the total number of third-party OTT mobile VoIP (mVOIP) users over the next five years.

However, the research anticipates that improved 4G coverage and a growing number of capable devices will boost the number of mobile video call users, partially offsetting voice revenue losses. The study forecasts that ViLTE (Video over LTE) operator revenue will exceed $33bn by 2024.

Despite the likely haemorrhaging of their voice business, operators will likely gain from 5G proliferation, which is anticipated to generate new revenue streams for operators by enabling advanced use cases for VoLTE and ViLTE.

The study notes that high data throughput and low latency will propel emerging services such as real time information (RTI), remote control and Vo5G, which will find wide application across a range of industries.

In a call to action, Juniper Research urges operators to invest in artificial intelligence-enabled communications platforms that facilitate competitive voice service delivery. It also advises operators to accelerate VoLTE launches, in order to benefit from emerging Vo5G services.

Moreover, the study notes that establishing a 5G-enabled IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) infrastructure for VoLTE will likely provide a pivotal foundation for future voice services roll-outs, which operators can monetise in upcoming years. 

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