A study conducted by Market Clarity has predicted there will be six million Australian internet-based VoIP users by 2011, with free services placing pressures on providers to deliver innovative service revenue models, or face the risk of going bust.
The telecommunications researcher forecast that of the 6 million VoIP adopters, 2.8 million would continue to favour free services.
"The future model for VoIP is something that is going to cause a paradigm shift in the industry," said Market Clarity CEO Shara Evans. "The only way for providers to sustain revenue will be to turn the telecommunications revenue model on its head."
Evans said the forecast figures of paid users were based not on regular subscribed VoIP services, but on the sale of VoIP in conjunction with other services.
She pointed to the booming trends of broadband adoption and VoIP peering as the two prime drivers of the predictions in the study.
"Eventually we'll find that individual users are using a variety of VoIP providers and once peering kicks in, it will lead to an explosive uptake of VoIP users," she said.
Market Clarity estimated the current crop of Australian internet based VoIP users at 411,000 but added that fewer than 97,000 were subscribing to paid services. However, Evans added that figures for paying users should not be confused with regular subscribed VoIP services.
"It's not even that these 97,000 users are subscribing to paid services," she said. "It means that they have at some time or another paid for something else in conjunction with the voice service."
Evans said providers could integrate new services, bundle VoIP offerings, or introduce advertising to sustain service revenue.
"The jury is still out on which model or models will be the dominant one to attract users to a paid service," she said.
The study also predicted Internet-based VoIP services in Australia to grow to $680 million out of a telecommunications market already worth more than $30 billion.