VoIP company Vopium raises $16.5 million in bid to challenge Skype

[Copenhagen] Danish VoIP technology company Vopiumhas received a $16.5 million capital injection, expanding its group of owners with telecom investor Raghuvinder Kataria, one of the early backers of what is now Bharti Airtel (one of the world’s largest telecommunication service providers).

With the investment, Kataria now owns the majority of shares in Vopium, which will use the funding to expand internationally in an effort to challenge VoIP juggernaut Skype.

Said Kataria, ambitiously:

“Vopium has developed its own new market. The ground-breaking technology will reach millions of users all over the world in the next few years. Our expectations are reflected by the significant amount of money that we have invested in the company and we expect 10 million Vopium users in a few years.

We believe that the market demands an alternative mobile solution to Skype and the fast market penetration of smartphones opens up new and more intelligent ways of communication. Vopium’s solution is unique because it offers the best conversation quality and is easy to use.”

Fighting words, but Skype of course has legions of users, and the company has made it abundantly clear in recent times that it aims to stake its ground on portable devices like mobile phones and tablet computers alongside desktops, so an easy feat it won’t be.

Vopium was established in Copenhagen back in 2006 by a group of people, spearheaded by Pakistani entrepreneur Tanveer Sharif. According the press release announcing its latest funding round, Vopium was originally intended for immigrants who were looking for cheap telephony solutions to get in contact with family and friends in distant countries.

Now, the company has expanded this target group to anyone who wants to makeinternational phone calls over VoIP for the lowest price possible (which I think means pretty much everyone on the planet). Using its mobile application, users can make calls across borders for the same quality but at a fraction of the cost of what traditional phone companies can offer, the company says.

Vopium also offers IM support for Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Apple devices, including the iPhone and iPod touch. The application offers free calls to Skype, Google Gtalk and other Vopium users, while chats on Skype, MSN, Yahoo! Google Talk, AIM, ICQ and MSN are also available, with additional support for Twitter.

The application is free to download and works with over 900 handsets on the market, including devices from Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, HTC and Motorola.

Vopium’s applications have today been downloaded and installed 1 million times, and the company adds that 250,000 users in 49 countries are currently using the solution. Its self-reported biggest markets today are Scandinavia, the UK and Australia.

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