WhatsApp raises the OTT stakes with new calling feature

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The most popular instant messaging app in the world has raised the OTT stakes even further with the introduction of calling via the app. In the light of moves by parent company Facebook to make its messenger app more central to the mobile communications experience, the pressure is on telecoms companies to respond.

“Over-the-top newcomers, such as WhatsApp, are increasing their attraction to their customers by adding new voice and video services,” said Mark Windle, Head of Marketing at OpenCloud. “Telecoms operators should take a leaf out of their book and launch enhanced communication services of their own. Open, virtualised VoLTE provides the means.

Manuel Stopnicki, CTO of Tektronix Communications agrees that VoLTE may provide the answer. “There is an opportunity for European operators to generate the same levels of ARPU that we are seeing in the US market once consumers begin to appreciate the value of 4G and the range of services it can offer,” he said.

“Video calling features on applications like Skype and Facetime have really taken off and it won’t be long either until we see other operators rolling out commercial VoLTE services as well. However, the critical success factor will lie in the network living up to the promises made to its users.”

We seem to be mostly over the era of operators viewing OTT players as a threat and they are increasingly looking to collaborate with them. ARPU growth is expected to come from data rather than voice anyway, so new features such as WhatsApp calling are not as big a deal as they might have been a few years ago. But the ‘dumb pipe’ danger still remains and operators must make sure they’re still seen to be innovating too.

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