Two studies released today highlight the growth and popularity of ringback tones as the sales of ringtones have declined.
A ringback is a song you choose that plays while a person waits for you to pick up a call.
Seattle-based M:Metrics found that ringbacks in the U.S. have grown 225 percent from the quarter ended January to the quarter ended November. Likewise, ringback subscriptions grew across Europe, at a rate of 150 percent in Germany and 146 percent in the U.K. during the same period. From July to November, ringbacks grew 12.8 percent in France and 11 percent in Spain.
Telephia, a competing measurement firm, also said today that it found that 14 percent of all sales from music were from ringback tones, surpassing mono and polyphonic ringtones share at 11 percent for the first time in the past year.
Those trends look good for Seattle-based RealNetworks, which bought ringback provider WiderThan for $350 million in September.
When the merger was first announced, Real said WiderThan was one of the first in the world to develop and then launch ringback tones. With SK Telecom alone, WiderThan achieved about 43 percent ringback tone penetration among the carrier's 20 million subscribers.
But the growth in the past year could be just the beginning.
Real said one analyst firm, ABI Research, expects ringback tones to grow from $65 million in 2005 in sales to $2.5 billion in 2009.