Messaging apps like WhatsApp are eating the revenues of telcos globally. Indian cellular operators are already feeling the heat and want the free messaging apps to be regulated. However, the sad story of the operators is not finding many buyers and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is also not interested in regulating messaging apps in the country.
Reported by TFE, Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal has raised concerns once again on messaging apps in the country. This time he has said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) should regulate messaging apps like WhatsApp which is all set to evolve into a messaging and voice call app. The voice services from WhatsApp would be launched soon.
In fact Vittal had raised similar demands last week too where he had stated that a debate should happen over formulating a framework on such messaging apps that operate outside regulations and jurisdiction.
“I think we need a framework by which these companies are subjected to similar jurisdiction… because that will benefit everybody concerned,” added Vittal.
However, Vittal’s demand has been quashed by TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar who feels that it is the Indian government which can take a call on the regulation part. Adding to it he also stated that the messaging apps are following the rules of the country.
“The architecture is clear; the government will not let these VOIP-based operators enter the market through the licensed route. But as far as voice calls on Skype or Facebook — that is, one Facebook/WhatsApp user to another — are concerned, they are within the rules.”
It is clear that Indian operators are finally feeling the heat from messaging apps especially from WhatsApp which has more than 40M active users in India. Besides Founder Jan Koum also acknowledged India to be a big market for WhatsApp at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He expects India numbers to hit 100M by end of 2014.
Voice calls and text messages (SMS) comprise about 75 percent of the revenues of telecom operators in India. But cheap and fun messaging provided by the likes of WhatsApp has snatched the revenues from the operators in the SMS market. For example: SMS comprised 12% of profit for Bharti Airtel in 2009-10. In Q3FY14, SMS revenues were down to a mere 6% of top line.
Globally the state of operators remains the same. A latest report from Ovum predicted that global telecom companies will lose $386 billion between 2012 and 2018 from customers using over-the-top VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) solutions such as Skype and Microsoft Lync. These losses will be mostly from international call revenues and roaming services. The companies lost $32.5 billion in texting fees in 2013 and the figure is projected to reach $54 billion by 2016.
The already dipping revenues in SMS and the growing concerns of voice call features by messaging apps might lead to the operators lobbying the government to try and place the messaging and voice based apps like WhatsApp in a regulatory framework.
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