Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) has come a long way in two decades, proving itself as one of the most in-demand and powerful of contemporary technologies. Where can it go from here? VoIP is used for everything from business communications to apps for social messaging, with millions of people depending on it daily—yet the majority of people couldn’t tell you what the acronym VoIP stands for. It’s largely stayed on the down low, a familiar technology for techies but mostly staying invisible and far from a household name.
In the past 20 years, mobile has taken over everything. In North America, more people use mobile devices than any other platform to get online. We now have WebRTC in the mix, and voice continues to gain in popularity (it’s now much more than just Siri). VoIP’s value hovers around $82 billion today, with a moderate compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of six percent. VoIP is pacing biotechnology and ecommerce for the title of top performing industries according to Telecom Reseller. In a coincidental twist of events, the same report indicates that wired telecommunications is a very low-performing industry.
You’ll find VoIP around the world, powering global phenomena like WeChat and aiding in connecting the most rural regions of Africa. VoIP is helping to reduce business costs, especially when it comes to overseas calls. At the turn of the latest century (circa 2000), VoIP made up just 2 percent of all calls. By 2003, it powered 25 percent. It’s behind technology like Skype, helping to make a “global marketplace” achievable and tearing down boundaries.
It’s a Mobile World
Now that mobile-readiness is no longer a goal, but squarely here, the PC market is in a downward spiral, and VoIP is perfectly prepped to help the take-over stick. It’s no surprise that people are buying mobile devices in larger droves and at a faster clip than they are PCs. VoIP has evolved to include mVoIP in order to embrace the mobile market. How we think about VoIP has changed with mobile, and technology like Kik and Facebook Messenger are all relying on VoIP to segue flawlessly into the mobile-ready world.
Considering what VoIP has achieved so far, it’s clear that the future of the technology is positive. There’s bound to be even more avenues for growth beyond social messaging. From business communication tools to customer service options and even dating apps, VoIP has evolved to offer a more accessible “entry bar” than ever before. Plus, with WebRTC as part of the cocktail, there are even more opportunities.
What’s in Store?
WebRTC from Google has been available to the public since 2011, and it immediately effected VoIP. WebRTC lets businesses and developers optimize application via VoIP technology without requiring special codecs or requests. In other words, the entry bar was again lowered. With WebRTC, an entire solution was instantly available, making VoIP simpler to work with than ever before. It’s no wonder this was around the time that VoIP started becoming more recognizable beyond niche tech industries, though it still has a long way to go before becoming common lingo.
However, WebRTC also ushered in a new challenge. Technically, it’s a VoIP competitor, but there’s also potential for a partnership. If the technology band together, adding voice to WebRTC application, they stand a chance of being a real powerhouse. It’s interesting to note that VoIP has slightly lost some popularity votes since WebRTC appeared. According to a Google Trends infographic, from 2010-15 VoIP slightly fell in popularity while WebRTC slightly grew. It’s too soon to tell whether this trend will continue, but it’s surely worrisome for VoIP fans.
Still, there’s no denying that “voice” overall is undergoing a growth spurt—and has since the mid-1990s. Skype really skyrocketed forward in 2001, but now with Google Hangouts, Viber, FaceTime and more, voice calling via messaging apps is more accessible and popular than ever. Younger generations might balk at picking up the phone to make a call, but something about voice/video chat from apps is seemingly comfortable. Developers use VoIP to add in voice calling options to various applications, tapping the mobile market.
Voice is on track to become a major, go-to form of communication, and it’s clear WebRTC isn’t going anywhere. The future holds two possible outcomes: Either WebRTC and VoIP will partner up and become stronger together, or one of the two will overtake the other. At the moment, WebRTC has a slight lead, but it’s anyone’s game. Ultimately, VoIP and WebRTC probably aren’t going to vanish anytime soon. Both are accessible, and VoIP offers a variety of voice calling options through a myriad of technologies.