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WhatsApp raises the OTT stakes with new calling feature

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The most popular instant messaging app in the world has raised the OTT stakes even further with the introduction of calling via the app. In the light of moves by parent company Facebook to make its messenger app more central to the mobile communications experience, the pressure is on telecoms companies to respond.

“Over-the-top newcomers, such as WhatsApp, are increasing their attraction to their customers by adding new voice and video services,” said Mark Windle, Head of Marketing at OpenCloud. “Telecoms operators should take a leaf out of their book and launch enhanced communication services of their own. Open, virtualised VoLTE provides the means.

Manuel Stopnicki, CTO of Tektronix Communications agrees that VoLTE may provide the answer. “There is an opportunity for European operators to generate the same levels of ARPU that we are seeing in the US market once consumers begin to appreciate the value of 4G and the range of services it can offer,” he said.

“Video calling features on applications like Skype and Facetime have really taken off and it won’t be long either until we see other operators rolling out commercial VoLTE services as well. However, the critical success factor will lie in the network living up to the promises made to its users.”

We seem to be mostly over the era of operators viewing OTT players as a threat and they are increasingly looking to collaborate with them. ARPU growth is expected to come from data rather than voice anyway, so new features such as WhatsApp calling are not as big a deal as they might have been a few years ago. But the ‘dumb pipe’ danger still remains and operators must make sure they’re still seen to be innovating too.

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3 comments

  1. Good Morning 01/04/2015 @ 1:21 pm

    The messaging app Viber already has voice calling via the app. In addition, in the middle of the call you can click the video button and switch over to video calling. So what whatsapp did is nothing new. This article smells like PR.

    • ETTHICS 01/04/2015 @ 9:09 pm

      I’m afraid I have to say I disagree with this comment. It IS a big deal.
      There are certainly other apps that do VoIP calling, including BBM, which by the way does a lot better job at it than Viber does.
      And so does Skype, which can also be used as a phone app.
      Viber is the worse of the lot. They’ve been trying to do a good job of it for several years, yet they have been unable to do so. Only with the latest updates the app has been working better. However it still leaves a lot to be desired.

      Whatsapp started quite badly as well. The quality of software was poor to say the least. However, they have kept at it and improved dramatically. And particularly so since FB bought it, releasing more important features, such as read receipts and now finally VoIP calling.
      That now makes it an all around great app for communicating, including important features that work well, all in one app.
      BBM could be here if they wouldn’t have dropped the ball years ago.

      Not withstanding the huge amount of users WhatsApp has. That in itself is important enough to write about it.

  2. Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 01/04/2015 @ 1:26 pm

    The reason this is more significant is the size of the audience – WhatsApp has seven times more monthly active users than Viber. FYI there was no press release published for this story.

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