Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) has started tapping the growing market of mobile messaging. In the last few months, the company has introduced few new features, including mobile payment, and now it has come up with video calling feature for their Messenger app.
The addition of this feature will allow the users to have a video chat with their friends on Facebook right on their smartphones.
Facebook has announced a new iOS and Android update for their Messenger app which adds the video calling functionality. Currently, the feature is rolling out for 18 markets including U.K, France, U.S. with more to come over in the upcoming months.
However, one limitation the video calling feature currently has is that it works only between the smartphones. Therefore, you cannot make a video call from your PC to your friend’s smartphone. But the good thing is that this limitation is expected to be for a short period only as Facebook is planning to introduce this feature as well.
Though there are 788.32 million mobile internet users globally, yet the present unavailability of this feature for the huge non-mobile internet user base might give an upper hand to Skype and FaceTime which are the main competitor of Facebook in this field.
Facebook Messenger Video Calling Fuels Net Neutrality Debate
There is another aspect of this launch; The introduction of video calling feature by Facebook may act as a fuel to burning issue of Net Neutrality in India.
After getting around 1 million emails from the users, as well as major service providers like Flipkart against the Zero rental policy, Airtel has finally decided to bury the plan – at least for now. However, the Zero rental plan already got them enough of negative publicity that a lot of efforts will be required to rebuild their brand image.
But in reality Airtel gave up only on the Zero rental plan and not the motive behind it. Now, along with other Telecom operators the company has started a campaign asking for “Same Service, Same Rules”. According to these telecom players, OTT app players should be allowed to offer voice-based services only after a mutual agreement with the telecom companies who are allegedly facing huge losses due to these services. Actually the Telecom operators need a good percentage of share from the earnings of the Over-the-top apps like Whatsapp and Skype.
Facebook has a huge user base of about 129 million in India and nearly 100 million access the network via mobile. The addition of video calling feature to the Messenger app will definitely help the social networking giant record greater engagement and increase its user base by adding new internet users to the platform. Thus, the free video calling feature will allow them to connect with their dear ones without shelling out anything extra from their pocket, making a deep dent on the telecom’s revenue stream.
The telecom operators in India are concerned about the growing adoption of the messenger apps as the availability of video calling feature for free will bring a huge drop in the number of users who use their paid 3G video and voice calling, and may result in declining profits.
However, according to users, what the Telecom operators are asking for is against the basic principle of the freedom of the internet and its accessibility. The users and service providers are with the opinion that once the user pay for the data connection, it is his/her choice to use any web based service and the Telecoms can’t force the users to pay separately for each service. Since they are already paying for the Internet connection, it is their right to decide how and where they would like to use the allotted data. So, to prevent the start of the regime of the monopoly of Telcos, users have written to TRAI in very large numbers and are expecting the government body to react to their complaints.
This is definitely going to be an interesting battle between Telcos and TRAI and only the time will tell if TRAI rules in the favor of general internet users. However, after the introduction of video calling feature in messenger app, Facebook has only fueled this debate. Telcom companies have got another reason to worry as the data-based video calling feature is now accessible to nearly 50% of mobile internet users in India, thanks to Facebook.