The mobile messaging app, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has a staggering 1 billion monthly active users and a whopping 100 million conversations are recorded every single day; that’s 1,100 calls every single second. One in every 7 people on the planet is currently using the app. WhatsApp has proved to be a boon to a common man but at the same time a curse for the Telecom operators around the world.
The number of conversations via WhatsApp is overwhelming as the feature was rolled out only a year ago in April 2015 on Android and iOS devices. Citing the 1 billion MAU, the conversation numbers are self-explanatory. We can only imagine the staggering response when WhatsApp releases the Video calling feature as well in the future. The social media behemoth, Facebook acquired the online messaging giant WhatsApp in 2014 for a whopping $19 billion.
The popularity of Voice calls over the internet has become immensely attractive as they consume only mobile data and not a bunch of dollars especially when one makes an international call. Its competitors, especially Skype that has 300 million MAU’s has been beaten to a large extent by WhatsApp in terms of a number of daily calls. So, what made WhatsApp calling immensely popular? According to The Next Web,’ mobile-centric approach’ and ‘WhatsApp’s Ubiquity’ made the calling feature lucrative whereas skype remains more of a desktop-centric.
The increasing internet penetration across the globe and the rise of LTE-enabled budget smartphones globally are the top reasons for the unprecedented popularity of WhatsApp. According to the eMarketer firm, an estimated 3.43 billion people across the globe will have the access to the Internet by the end of this year and by 2020 the figure will touch 4.17 billion users worldwide.
Safety and Privacy of its users are the utmost concern of any of the messaging giant. And to make users glued with the network with confidence, WhatsApp has recently introduced end-to-end encryption of messages. The move has been welcomed by a number of users as the feature guarantees the privacy of users, and messages can only be read by the sender and the recipient. However, the feature landed the App in soup lately in Brazil when it refused to divulge the users’ information to police, and as a result, the Government imposed a 12-hour ban on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp popularity in developing countries especially India
WhatsApp is immensely popular in India, the second largest smartphone market after China, and Brazil, one of the largest countries in the world with a huge smartphone penetration potential. The App enjoys an enthralling 95% penetration in India and an enchanting 94% penetration in Brazil according to a report.
But, the growth potential for WhatsApp is still wide open. In India, the smartphone penetration is hovering at 17% and the LTE (4G) revolution has just begun. All these factors portray a big window of opportunity for WhatsApp in developing countries, especially India.
A threat to telecom operators globally?
The Menlo Park giant, Facebook owns two of the top online messaging Apps in the world namely, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. While WhatsApp already has a billion MAUs globally, Facebook Messenger is not far behind with 900 million monthly active users. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently highlighted the dominant position of these two platforms in smartphone ecosystem and revealed that a whacking 60 billion messages are sent via these apps globally as compared to 20 million SMS. The App is now threatening the Voice calling market of Operators as well by revealing the numbers.
Recently, telecom operators in India raised a concerned with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) claiming these online communication Apps especially WhatsApp, Skype and others a threat to their existence. Comparatively, voice calls through messaging Apps are 12.5 times cheap when compared to normal telecom calls and on the other hand messages via communication apps are 16 times cheaper than normal SMS. On an average one minute of a phone call over the internet costs a mere 4 paise as compared to 50 paise over normal calls. But the decision to kerb the services violates Net Neutrality and thus was abolished.
On global level too many telecom operators are arguing that messaging apps are the big time data hogger and are mercilessly eating into their revenue and profit, forcing the telecom companies to slow death. This could be true as smartphone users are spending one-third of their total time spent on the device on communication apps, which aggregates to 22.7 hours a month, on an average, globally. Therefore, it is safe to assume that with the rising influx of budget smartphones in developing countries and rising LTE penetration, the adoption rate of communication apps will increase as well.
What is WhatsApp upto
WhatsApp which dropped the subscription fees years ago and never served advertisements on its App is now vying to incorporate communication with business platforms according to its founder, Jan Koum. From enquiring about the delayed airline to communicating with one’s bank, all from one platform akin WeChat which started this model in 2013 and has roped in 10 million of business accounts, WhatsApp could become a universal platform for all the business communications that require instant response.