Skype close to 25 million users in China

14 Nov 2006

Skype has been signing up almost 100,000 new users a day in China over the past three months, according to the VoIP firm’s local partner, Tom Online. According to Australian online news site CRN, Tom Online now has at least 23.5 million registered users in the People’s Republic, suggesting that almost one in five Skype users is Chinese; Skype claims 136 million registered users worldwide. The rapid increase comes despite the censorship of text messages, and questions about the legality of some of Skype’s VoIP services in China, which have prevented Tom Online from offering the Skype Out service. Wang Lei Lei, chief executive at Tom Online, revealed the dramatic acceleration of Skype’s Chinese audience in a conference call with analysts to discuss the Chinese company’s third quarter results. The disclosure almost certainly does not reveal the full extent of Skype’s popularity in China, because some users have signed up through overseas websites, instead of using the Tom Online Skype site. Chinese telecoms regulations prevent Tom Online from offering Skype Out in its version of the software, prompting some subscribers to bypass it. Tom Online has also blocked politically sensitive phrases in Chinese text messages to avoid upsetting the Chinese government. The two companies operate a joint venture in China which is 51% owned by Tom Online.