FCC Data Reveals Changing Telecom Calling Landscape

By Peter Bernstein June 21, 2013

We read a lot about how the nature of voice calling has changed as a result of people and companies switching from legacy TDM landlines to Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and abandoning fixed services entirely for going mobile only. 

Of particular interest has been what is transpiring in the U.S., and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is out with its latest report, “Local Telephone Competition: Status as of June 30, 2012.” The information in the report is from carrier reports that are mandated by the FCC and thus reflect the best data we have available for understanding what is going on. They indicate how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

The top-line news is that last year at this time there were 102 million end-user switched access lines in service. This was down from 107 million (4.7 percent) from just six months earlier, and is consistent with the 9-percent decline in such lines over the last three years.   

The numbers tell an interesting tale

A few charts are worth reviewing from the report as the show the penetration of VoIP, the fact that it is in no small measure being driven by bundling, and that mobile subscription while slowing a bit are enormous by any measure.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Source: FCC Local Telephone Competition: Status as of June 30, 2012

The breakdown of wireline connections by technology and customer type is also interesting, although the suspicion is the business VoIP numbers may be understated due to how enterprises and their employees connect to VoIP services though managed services providers.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Source:  FCC Local Telephone Competition: Status as of June 30, 2012

The last chart in many ways may be the most telling. It shows why bundling is so important and how it is the main driver of VoIP adoption.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Source: FCC Local Telephone Competition: Status as of June 30, 2012

We keep hearing about how the U.S. communications infrastructure is going all IP. While it may seem that we are in the midst of a revolution, it is actually proceeding at an evolutionary pace when it comes to VoIP. That said, what is speeding along is the decline in traditional wireline subscriptions which can be attributable in no small measure to people opting to have their mobile connection their primary and only one for voice calls. 

How many voice calls are being made via VoIP apps over Wi-Fi and cellular is not accounted for in the numbers, but if nothing else, the three year look shows just how much the times are changing and how fast. Implicitly it also shows how important things like triple play have become for the carriers and why there is such urgency of getting better monetization opportunities out of new mobile data plans and value-added services.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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