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More VoLTE users than OTT subscribers by 2021 – report

More VoLTE users than OTT subscribers by 2021 – report

A new report by Juniper Research predicts that by 2021 there will be more users of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services than users of Over the Top (OTT) app services. This is of particular interest in Africa where OTT services are becoming increasingly popular and continue to impact on telecoms revenues in key markets like Nigeria.

If this happens, it will be the first time that there will be more VoLTE subscribers than that of OTT services - including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, imo and WeChat.

According to the report, there will be three billion VoLTE subscribers in 2021, from 488 million in 2016 and this will allow telecoms operators to secure returns on 4G investments.

The report revealed that there are 165 operators in 73 countries that are investing in VoLTE and the number includes 102 operators that have commercially launched an HD voice service using VoLTE in 54 countries. Because of this, the report said mobile data traffic attributable to VoLTE will likely rise significantly over the next four years, representing a seven-fold rise from 2 000 petabytes in 2016.

In Africa, various operators have rolled out VoLTE by upgrading their infrastructure, but this rollout has not kept up with the pace of OTT service adoption.

In Nigeria, ITWeb Africa recently reported that operators have appealed to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to block access to OTT services in order to allow them to regain lost revenue, especially during the country's economic recession.

With more operators such as Smile Telecoms, Vodacom, Globacom and several others rolling out 4G LTE across the continent, industry experts believe the continent would be part of the adoption of VoLTE only if operators are able to offer best offerings to customers to 'outshine' the OTT fame.

Adeyemi Adepetun, tech industry analyst and columnist believes Nigeria is among those countries best positioned to embrace VoLTE since its regulator has made provision for operators to seamlessly upgrade their services.

According to Adepetun, ensuring other African countries encourage their service providers to offer 4G LTE is a required criterion for VOLTE in the continent.

He said: "4G LTE's high spectrum efficiency means higher network capacity, improved cost efficiency, backwards compatibility and future-proofing. 4G LTE all Internet Protocol network means easier integration, improved cost efficiency, enhancements to security and Quality of Service differentiation."

Furthermore, the report said operators will introduce widespread national and international VoLTE roaming, as VoLTE usage rises to over 10 trillion minutes by 2021 which it said is equivalent to around 3.3 trillion music tracks. However, the research argued that traditionally slow-moving operators should enter partnerships with platform vendors in order to accelerate service launches.

The report's author Sam Barker stated that operators have historically used service coverage as a differentiation point; selling the notion of 'always available'.

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