Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why the Postal Service May not be the Web's Biggest Victim.

WTOP.com reports that in recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project shows 24 percent of adult Internet users have placed calls on the Internet, a major spike from just 8 percent four years ago.   This increase shifts calls and revenue away form landlines and wireless phones.

Other interesting finding from the Pew Research Center's report include:
  • On any given day 5% of Internet users are going online to place phone calls, up from 2% in 2007.
  • The percentage of American Internet users who have placed phone calls online is now about the same as the percent who were aware in 2004 that it was possible to use the Internet for phone calling.
  • High-intensity users of all communications modes, and recipients of mail are significantly more likely to use the Internet to make phone calls.  These are individuals with a college education or more, and individuals earning more than $75,000.  Also urban and suburban residents are more likely to use the Internet for voice communications
  • Hispanic Americans are more likely to use Internet based phone services than any other group.
  • The authors of the study implies that some of the interest in Internet based communications is that it allows for a relatively cheap method of having a video link as well as a voice link.
While the survey did not ask about immigration status of white or black Americans, the higher share of Hispanic Americans using the Internet for phone service indicates that the service has significant appeal to individuals wanting to make international calls.   One would expect that first and second generation Americans, including non citizen residents are likely among those with the greatest interest in a low cost method of international voice communications.

The growth of Internet based phone calls may put another nail in the coffin of land line companies as they lose revenue from International calls, the last type of phone call that has a per minute charges for most customers.  Similarly, high international call charges for cell phones represent a revenue stream for these companies that may be lost as well as customers seek cheaper alternatives using their data plan to do voice communications.

For the Postal Service, the growth of internet based telephone calls should have no impact.  Postal executives must feel good not being in the cross hairs for once when talking about  a rapidly growing new communications technology

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