|Free messaging holds sway|
|Friday, 01 June 2012 21:12|
Most of the people with smartphones known to the writer have shown that at least three quarters of their contacts are on Whatsapp.
These platforms have definitely changed the way people interact as they just have to ensure that they have a little something in their phones in order to receive or send messages.
Sources at Econet Wireless, which controls 70 percent of the country’s mobile market and were the first to introduce mobile broadband, say that these platforms have presented a worldwide challenge which is not peculiar to Zimbabwe alone.
“Inasmuch as we have not seen growth in terms of SMS usage since the arrival of instant messaging platforms we really can’t complain that we are losing revenue because people are still using data,” said one of the sources.
The Econet Analyst Briefing report for the year ended February 29 2012 points to the fact that an increase in data capacity and capability will be a key driver for them.
The report also calls for the stimulation of data usage while distribution of low cost data devices will be followed through.
The co-founder of hugely popular WhatsApp recently defended the mobile messaging app against accusations that it “steals” revenue from operators, insisting that it benefits carriers by encouraging subscribers to use data plans just like the sources at Econet put it.
In an interview with Reuters, Brian Acton insisted that the firm is not a threat to operators, despite conventional wisdom suggesting that the two billion messages that its users send each day are cutting into operators’ SMS revenues.
“I view it from the perspective that we’re facilitating a broad movement to data plans and the entities that provide those plans are the carriers, so they stand to benefit quite substantially. It’s all about the data,” Acton said.
Operators may take a dim view of that opinion, given that social networks like Facebook, which boasts more than 800 million registered members worldwide, already provide a compelling reason for mobile users to buy smartphones and take out mobile Internet plans.
Peace Gwara, an avid user of WhatsApp, reckons it’s far much better to use it than to send messages over Facebook or text.
“WhatsApp is cheap and efficient provided the network is available and I can send pictures in realtime too,” she said.
Tafadzwa Kwatengera said he rarely uses SMS because to him it doesn’t provide the value that WhatsApp provides.
“I’m an Econet subscriber and I usually buy the 20 texts juice card because I’ve always been very keen to message people, however, there are times when I just forget that I’ve run out of texts and just text anyway.
I might realise later that my text was never sent because I had run out of texts but with Whatsapp as long as my balance reflects anything other than zero dollars then I’m good to go,” he said.
Online reports say Vodafone and other top telecom operators in Europe and Korea would be launching a new instant messaging platform called “Joyn” at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this month, to stem their revenue loss to free messaging applications such as Blackberry Messaging (BBM) and Whatsapp.
Vodafone would be joined by Telefonica, Orange, Telecom Italia, and Deutsche Telekom in this grand move to revert the huge loss in their worldwide SMS revenue. Industry watchers in Europe have described the move as rare but necessary because records show the telcos are losing out big time to the likes of BBM and WhatsApp.
UK-based Research Organisation, Ovum, reported that last year alone, telecom operators lost a whopping US$13,9 billion in SMS revenue to social networks and free web-based applications.
Ovum said in 2010 the telcos lost some US$8,2 billion to social networks and free web-based instant messaging applications, indicating that the fate of SMS is getting worse. According to a blog post from Whats- App, the company is now getting over one billion messages sent using its platform in a day.
The WhatsApp blog post stated that one billion messages meant 41 666 667 messages an hour, 694 444 messages a minute, and 11 574 messages a second.
It said one billion messages a day is a significant milestone and also a small step closer towards its goal of providing a great mobile messaging system for a global market, regardless of your handset.
WhatsApp has been able to distinguish itself from other messaging applications by being available on iOS, Android, Blackberry and Nokia platforms.