Sten Tamkivi

Chief Evangelist, Skype


Two years after first becoming available in 2005 less than three percent of all calling minutes were processed through Skype. Now it is thirty-three percent and used by callers in 225 countries. That percentage increases above fifty percent some parts of the world during such special days as Mother's Day. A major reason for the growth is the quality of the call. Video offers a richer experience than audio alone. A child who spends four minutes on the phone with grandparents will spend an hour when video is added so they can play together and share such visual activities as drawing. That growth has also provided profits so additional cash injections were not needed. The growth of Facebook has added even more interest since it allows members greater intimacy than mere text, making members more valuable to one another.

Video is out of the geek sector. Increased use of notebooks and mobile phone evolution with built-in video cameras have helped. It is no longer a technological subset of users. International Long Distance, or ILD, is growing about four percent a year. The growth is low because the volume is increasing at a rate of some thirteen percent due to retail and wholesale prices for purchased minutes when tens of millions of them are used. This allows thirteen percent growth in volume while the industry size increases more slowly. The minutes have spread across many more calling corridors or country pairs as usage has grown and now includes some forty thousand calling corridors. The U.S.-to-Mexico pair is the most active international corridor in the world with about 500 million hours of calls a year. It doesn’t matter which country in the world you live in; you can still get access to Skype-to-Skype calling and SkypeOut calling to PSTN connections. In the U.S. about half of our user base use Skype for making video calls. In China you can cut that number in half. In the U.S. five percent of the users say they use Skype for IM, while in China it is twenty-five percent.

Video service is, unfortunately, limited by access to the internet so usage is mostly in the developed world. On the other hand establishing a next venture, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that’s trying to do a price arbitrage, a new calling card system, or anything focused on price with low or narrow-band audio quality will never have a global footprint. It will only be niche service. Skype has looked into creating a credit transfer or mobile money transfer extension, but regulations of individual countries are not ready for a pan-Internet fluid payment system. The main thrust of Skype is to enable worldwide conversations, not become a bank.

Sten Tamkivi is Skype's Chief Evangelist, building relationships with engineering communities, media, governments and academia around the world. Based in Tallinn, he is also General Manager for  Skype Estonia, the largest global office for Skype. Sten joined Skype in 2005 and has held various executive positions as the Head of Operations, overseeing our sites and servers, internal IT, security, and productivity tools; as manager of the engineering for Skype Devices; General Manager of Skype's eCommerce activities, responsible for developing next-generation commerce around Skype's core communication offering; and more recently as GM of Desktop clients, focusing on the development of landmark Skype 4.0 for Windows release. Prior to Skype, Sten was business development director at Helmes, a Tallinn-based software development and IT-consulting company. He began his career as a programmer and web designer, and both co-founded and managed Halo Interactive DDB Estonia, the country's first full service digital media agency. He studied Public Relations and Communication at the University of Tartu, Estonia. He lives in Tallinn where he cooks gourmet meals for his wife, son and daughter.

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