Facebook owned WhatsApp is expected to add voice calls to it’s IM offering within this quarter. Customers, especially those on Econet’s WhatsApp bundles are excited about the prospect of making unlimited VoIP calls on WhatsApp for just $3 but if Facebook’s voice call package is anything to go by, then there is nothing exciting about this because VoIP on Econet bundled mobile broadband sucks.
We spent the better part of the morning experiencing Facebook’s VoIP voice calls using Econet’s Facebook bundles and the quality is a lot to be desired. Failed calls were more than the ones that actually went through and of the few that went through, the loss in data packets were enormous. Definitely worse than a Zimbabwean mid-quality Skype call.
If this is any indication of how WhatsApp voice calls will work, then don’t hold your breath because Zimbabwe’s broadband is simply not ready for such.
Granted, WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum was upbeat about their ability to “use the least amount of bandwidth and optimize the hell out of it” but that’s what exactly Facebook is also looking to be “good at”. During the Mobile World Congress, Mark Zuckerberg outlined Facebook’s plans to reduce data usage on consumers and their purchase of compression company Onavo will help achieve that. However, until that happens, our broadband speeds are a lost cause for their current capabilities.
Much has been said about WhatsApp and Facebook’s combined potential to compress data and still deliver quality voice calls but that’s something for other markets. I doubt any meaningful WhatsApp or Facebook voice conversions in Zimbabwe will take place outside a really good wifi connection.