VoIP telephone service Skype has leapt ahead of traditional carriers to become the biggest provider of cross-border phone service, according to research firm TeleGeography.

Skype's traffic rose a staggering 51 per cent in 2008 and is expected to have rocket by 63 per cent for last year, up to 54 billion minutes.

By comparison, international telephone call volume has only risen by eight per cent.

520 million users

The big advantage to Skype is that it lets customers call other users, anywhere in the world, without charge, using voice, video, or text. Users can also call non-users at a low cost.

The software is available as a free download, and Skype is now also on mobiles phones. The service, one of the first to take advantage of Voice over Internet Protocol technology, has 520 million registered users globally.

According to TeleGeography analyst Stephen Beckert: "Skype is now the largest provider of cross border communications in the world, by far," adding that "the volume of traffic routed via Skype is tremendous."

Skype might be big in Japan – and everywhere else – but its revenues haven't reflected its popularity. In 2008 it took in around $551 million, although it aims to hit the $1 billion mark in the next two years.

Via Reuters