5G Voice Users to Reach 2.5 Billion Globally by 2026

The total number of Voice-over-5G users will reach 2.5 billion globally by 2026; rising from only 290 million in 2022, according to Juniper Research. This remarkable growth of 780% will be driven by the acceleration of 5G roll-outs following a slowing during the pandemic.

The new research urges operators to capitalize on the growth of Voice-over-5G users to create a new portfolio of voice services. It recommends that operators prioritize interactive calling, intelligent call routing, and the integration of AI-based IVR (Interactive Voice Services) as these provide the most immediate return on investment of Voice-over-5G.

In particular, the report identified interactive calling as a key opportunity for operators who have launched 5G to provide more valuable voice services and compete with OTT voice apps. Interactive calling leverages 5G networks to offer advanced voice calling functionality, including interactive content and screen-sharing, directly in the native calling app on smartphones, thus negating the need for third‑party applications.

Current 4G voice technology, VoLTE (Voice-over-LTE), is not sufficient to support interactive calling. Whilst there are currently over 4.4 billion VoLTE users, representing over 50% of subscribers, the lower speed of 4G networks in comparison to 5G networks has thus far restricted the use of interactive features or AI in operators’ voice services.

Despite the growth of Voice-over-5G, the report forecasts that operator-billed voice revenue will decline by 16% over the next four years, as P2P voice traffic migrates to third-party voice apps. It urges operators to capitalize on the growth of 5G to develop new business‑oriented voice services, such as interactive calling. 5G-based voice services must emulate operators’ current business messaging solutions by levying the cost on enterprises, rather than monetizing mobile subscriber usage.

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