Will Whatsapp Voice Calling Feature Affect Telecom Operators?

The Whatsapp voice calling feature has been rolled out to all users, whether it stays permanently or not is up to the company to decide.

Published: 02nd April 2015 12:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th April 2015 06:03 PM   |  A+A-


The mobile messenger application Whatsapp certainly gives a disturbing knock to the scam-hit telecom industry’s door. The Whatsapp voice calling feature has been rolled out to all users, whether it stays permanently or not is up to the company to decide.

Whatsapp is not the only app that provides free voice calling feature, other instant messaging (IM) applications like Viber and Skype have generated a cumulative threat to the Indian telecom operators. Whatsapp crossed 70 million users in India alone and has over 700 million across the globe. TRAI’s latest statistics of mobile phone users in India on February 2015 are 970,955,980. Comparing these two statistics, the telecom operators are in a safe zone and applications like Whatsapp still have lot of work to do if they want to outgrow the operators.

The Decline of SMS Revenue in India

Whatsapp is in a threatening pace in expanding its user base and has already made users shift away from the operator provided SMS services. Regardless of the statistics, the total number of messages sent and received by Whatsapp has already overtaken the number of SMSes sent and received per day. Other chat apps for smartphones like Blackberry, Hike, WeChat, Nimbuzz along with Whatsapp has eaten away 5% of telecom operators’ revenue last year. According to several media reports, only 30% mobile users in India use SMS services.

How Whatsapp calling tariffs work?

A minute of Whatsapp call will roughly cost you 0.20 MB of 3G data which means without a 3G data plan, it will cost around 80 Paisa/200 KB. A 5 minute Whatsapp call will cost you 1 MB which is 6 Rupees (Without a 3G data plan). However, the Whatsapp call feature is a boon while utilizing Wifi’s and 3G data plans.

Mobile networks will certainly see a rise in their internet services if Whatsapp calls become a hit. This in turn will increase the demand of internet services like 3G or 2G and the prices of such internet plans might also witness a hike. Bharti Airtel has already started increasing the 2G data tariffs drastically. However, mobile operators look to compensate the losses they might see in SMSes and calls made through the operator’s service by increasing the price in internet data packs.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is already looking to regulate these OTT (Over the Top) apps. TRAI is already being pressurised by complains flooding to them from telecom operators like Vodafone, Airtel and Idea about how the OTT apps are free riding their network.

Interestingly, Whatsapp must be appreciated for its tremendous growth last year. Facebook acquired Whatsapp for a whopping $19 billion. Now, with the increasing user base combined with Whatsapp’s voice calling feature. The acquisition came after the app posed a threat to Facebook’s international situation as its closest competitor Google was also interested in acquiring the messaging app.

Though the acquisition cost about $19 billion, Neeraj Arora, the vice president of Whatsapp said in November last year that the company has only 80 employees. And Facebook is looking to expand it big.


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