Rebtel, which bills itself as the biggest mobile VoIP company after Skype, is expanding its emphasis on mobile with the launch of its first iPad app. The company is looking to ride the wave of iPad growth and get even more people on to its free and low-cost calling service.
Rebtel is now up to 17 million users, who access the service over Wi-Fi and 3G on iPhone, Android devices and PCs. IPad users previously could install Rebtel’s iPhone-optimized app on their slates, but now with the dedicated iPad app, they get a fuller experience that takes better advantage of the larger screen real estate. The app offers tablet-optimized navigation and graphics and also integrates with an iPad address book, making it easy to see who you can call for free. An Android tablet version is expected in the coming weeks while a Windows Phone client is expected by the end of this summer.
Andreas Bernstrom, Rebtel’s CEO said the app makes sense as more people shift their computing work load to mobile devices. He said one of Rebtel’s strengths is that it was built from the ground up to be mobile, which is how most of its customers utilize the system.
“We are squarely in the middle of the post-PC era, marked by an increasing amount of consumers who have leapfrogged the classic desktop PC in favor of multi-purpose mobile devices that allow for greater creativity and social interaction. We are excited to expand our development pipeline to respond to this growing global demand for tablets and iPads.”
Rebtel, which just passed the 15 million user mark in February, continues to grow as more people are turned on to its ability to offer free and cheap calls. Bernstrom said Rebtel calls to outside linesare up to 60 percent cheaper than Skype. He added the company, which is set to do $85 million in revenue this year, has an average revenue per user that’s three times that of Skype. He said the average user is spending 350 minutes a month calling on Rebtel.
The rise of so-called over-the-top voice and messaging providers is putting more and more pressure on carriers, who are seeing some of their most profitable services undercut by Internet-based apps. Bernstrom said the operators are increasingly having to confront the new realities of business as more users look to OTT services. A Juniper Research report forecast that 640 million people will use OTT mobile VoIP services by 2016.
Carriers will need to adjust their pricing plans and reconcile the fact that while most of their traffic is data, most of their revenues comes from voice and SMG. Mobile analyst Chetan Sharma reported recently that 85 percent of carrier traffic for the four nationwide mobile operators networks was pure data, but that data only accounted for 39 percent of all mobile data revenues.
“At some point, they’ll have to say, ‘Screw voice, you’ll get it for free. Now, do you want 5-10-15 GB of data?’” Bernstrom said. “That’s years away but we’re helping speed that up.”