So mobile operators are reeling under dumb pipe threat the internet is permanently visiting upon them. Some have cleverly accepted this inevitability and have gone the app bundles route. The Facebook bundles and WhatsApp bundles that is. Those that haven’t will rue their inaction ofcourse. So far, the disruption of the internet to voice and SMS revenues the mobile operators are making are illustrated most by the popularity of WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and the promise of voice apps like Viber, Skype and so on.
The voice apps however have mostly been inefficient and generally unpolished, delivering only good internet, if end to end, subscribers are on stable 3G connections, or WiFi. An announcement made today by WhatsApp co-founder, Jan Koum, at the Mobile World Congress, may change this state of affairs. WhatsApp is going for voice calls too.
Now if there’s a company that can optimise an app to use as minimal data as possible while delivering quality service, it is WhatsApp. But this even more as we’re talking WhatsApp engineering prowess combined with that at Facebook!
“We’re going to introduce voice on WhatsApp in the second quarter of this year,” said Koum today. He explains the product: “We think we have the best voice product out there. We use the least amount of bandwidth and optimize the hell out of it.”
We’re guessing WhatsApp bundles by operators will likely go away a bit (they usually come as 3 month promos at a time) at least just to regroup and remodel. Or maybe the price of the bundles will increase significantly to cater for the lost voice revenue.
It’s the most vicious blow to be delivered by WhatsApp to the telcos so far. SMS, even when it ruled, was never the biggest revenue earner. Voice is. And the way things are going, voice too as a regulator licensed privilege of a few companies, will fall away. Dumb internet pipes is what they will become in the future, and only those that are preparing for this eventuality (with things like mobile payment platforms), will survive it!