Skype user numbers grow, but slower

New data from eBay shows that its Skype VOIP service is still picking up lots of new users, but at a slower rate than in previous quarters.

At the end of March, 196 million people had registered to use Skype. eBay isn't saying how many of those users became regular Skype users after they signed up. Still, it's a big leap from the 95 million people who had registered by end of March last year.

But the rapidly increasing popularity of cable "digital voice" service from companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable could be taking its toll on Skype's growth.

Skype added 25 million users in the first quarter of 2007, a growth of 14 percent over the previous quarter. In the last quarter of 2006, Skype added 35 million new users for a growth of 26 percent over the previous quarter.

Growth in the number of calling minutes used by Skypers also slowed. Skype users talked for 7.7 billion minutes using the free Skype-to-Skype service during the first three months of 2007. That's up only slightly from the 7.6 billion free minutes used in the last three months of 2006.

Skypers also placed 1.5 million minutes of for-pay SkypeOut calls during the first quarter of 2007. That's the same number of SkypeOut minutes Skype sold during the last quarter of 2006. No growth. The SkypeOut service connects Skype calls with regular (non-IP) land line phones and cell phones.