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Skype user surge credited to emerging markets

Head of Skype MEA reveals how more people from region are signing up to VoIP service

Skype user surge credited to emerging markets
Rouzbeh Pasha, head of Middle East and Africa, Skype.

Recent swells in Skype's subscriber base can be attributed to people signing up to the VoIP service from emerging markets such as the Middle East and Africa, claims Rouzbeh Pasha, head of Skype MEA.

"When we started Skype, people in more developed ICT markets already had access to the internet and it was very easy for them to get online, so we started growing fast. But what we've seen as a trend in recent years, especially in the last two, is a very strong growth in the number of Skype users from emerging markets where the roll-out of broadband has increased in the last years," explained Pasha. "If you look at 2009, we increased our new users to 160 million people in total...a growing number of the new users are actually coming from emerging markets."

Skype does not break the region down into specific countries so they can't identify which Middle Eastern country is leading in terms of Skype usage. Access to Skype.com is restricted in Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, but he admits that there are users from those countries as well, including iPhone owners. It's a sign of things to come according to Pasha, who believes that smartphones will be the future of Skype in emerging markets.

VoIP legalisation in the United Arab Emirates has been the subject of much debate but Pasha says that he believes country's TRA was "doing what they think is in the benefits of the country" and that Skype tends to look at the bigger picture: "If you think about the Middle East and Africa, you're talking about 1.2 billion people. It's about the region as a whole, not specific countries."

The Arabic version of the site was launched only late November last year but has already been labelled a ‘success' internally. Skype is now focused on forging more partnerships in the region and improving user experience.

"The goals we are driven by are more internal benchmarks; what our users think about our quality and their experience of Skype. That's how we measure success. It's more important for those who use it to be a 100% happy than just getting 200 million more users," Pasha concluded.

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