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Research Report: voice over internet protocol (VoIP)

26 Gorffennaf 2007

Executive Summary

1.1 This research report draws on the findings of three prices of Ofcom research on VoIP use. In Ofcom’s consultation Regulation of VoIP Services, 22 February 2006 (-1-), and our Statement on the Regulation of VoIP Services, 29 March 2007 (-2-), we undertook to monitor developments in VoIP use to inform our policy on VoIP regulation, especially regarding access to emergency services over VoIP. The findings of this report were taken into account when formulating the proposals in our consultation, Regulation of VoIP services: Access to the emergency services, 26 July 2007.

1.2 This report draws on three pieces of quantitative research among UK consumers commissioned by Ofcom:

  • Ofcom's communications tracking survey of c.2,200 UK adults per quarter;
  • A face-to-face survey of UK adults conducted in May 2006 to explore VoIP take-up (the May 2006 research); and
  • An online survey of 500 VoIP users designed to gain a better understanding of consumer usage. This survey was carried out in October 2006 (the October 2006 research).

Together, these pieces of research show the growth of VoIP use in the UK and the types of products being used. Further, the research shows that, in general, users are not fully aware of the extra functions or limits of the products they are using.

Usage of VoIP increasing

1.3 An estimated 2.4m UK households have used a VoIP service

1.4 VoIP usage is more common among younger adults (15-44s) than older adults

1.5 People in the ABC1 socio-economic group are more likely to use VoIP than those in the C2DE group

More users say they are with Skype than with any other provider

1.6 In the October 2006 research, over two thirds of VoIP users said they were Skype customers (67%). MSN followed with 18% of users, then BT and/or Yahoo! (-3-) with 16%, Tesco with 6%, and Orange (Wanadoo) and Google both with 4%. These customer proportions were broadly similar to those reported in the May 2006 research, with the exception of Tesco, which had no reported users in May, largely because it was launched in early 2006 and wasn’t widely marketed until summer 2006.

1.7 Around one quarter of VoIP users (23%) claimed to be with more than one service provider

Usage is frequent

1.8 Seven out of ten VoIP users surveyed in the October 2006 research claimed to use VoIP at least once a week and 14% said they used it daily

Most VoIP calls are made to people with the same brand of software

1.9 The most common VoIP feature used by those surveyed in the October 2006 research was PC-to-PC calls between customers of the same provider, with 86% of users doing this. The remaining 14% only used VoIP products for PSTN (public switched telephone network) calls.

1.10 A large proportion of users said they did not know all the different types of services they had access to. There seems to be a substantial lack of knowledge among VoIP users about the services they have or can access.

Majority of users can use their VoIP software to access the PSTN

1.11 Over two thirds of the VoIP users surveyed (68%) said they could use their VoIP product to either make calls to, or receive calls from, people using ordinary telephone numbers

1.12 More specifically, around two thirds of VoIP users (65%) said they could make calls to the PSTN, but as may be expected, fewer said that they could receive calls from the PSTN (43%)

There is no evidence that people are swapping their existing voice services for a VoIP service

1.13 The VoIP users surveyed were more likely to have the use of a mobile phone and a fixed line voice service than UK adults as a whole. All VoIP users surveyed had use of a mobile phone. 3% did not have access to a fixed line, and 7% of those with a fixed line said that they did not use it.

Confusion over calls to emergency services

1.14 Over half of VoIP users surveyed did not know whether they could make calls to emergency services (53%). One quarter said they could; 22% said they could not.

1.15 Of those who said they could make calls to emergency services, most were not actually with a provider that would allow them to do so.

1.16 Less than one quarter of the VoIP users who were not with a provider that allowed calls to emergency services were explicitly aware of that.

Footnotes:

1.-http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/voipregulation/

2.-http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/voipregulation/statement/voipstatement.pdf

3.- BT and Yahoo! jointly promoted a VoIP service that was withdrawn in December 2006.

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