From the SIP Trunking Experts

April 02, 2015

VoIP Communications Challenge Accepted By WhatsApp

By Joe Rizzo
TMCnet Contributing Writer


We know WhatsApp Messenger as an instant messaging app for smartphones that operates under a subscription business model. It is a proprietary, cross-platform app that gives users the ability to select feature phones to use the Internet communication purposes. In addition to text messaging, WhatsApp can be used to send images, video and audio media messages. The location feature can also be used through the use of integrated mapping features.

In February 2014 Facebook (News - Alert) acquired WhatsApp. A few months later in October, WhatsApp was cited as being the most globally popular messaging app. At that time, it had more than 600 million active users with more than 70 million residing in India. That number grew to over 700 million active users at the beginning of this year.

Second quarter of last year was also the time frame that WhatsApp was supposed to add Voice over IP (VoIP) to its messaging app. A little over a year later and lots of beta testing across different countries, as well as an invite only version, WhatsApp can finally say that VoIP has been enabled for its Android (News - Alert)-based users in the form of an update.

One thing that a lot of operators noticed with WhatsApp’s popularity was a decline in Short Message Service (SMS) traffic. What the operators fear now is that the VoIP version, which will also be available on the iOS platform shortly, will have a similar effect on voice services. With an estimated growth rate that will take WhatsApp to around the 1.1 billion users mark this year, you can see why operators are concerned.

It is possible that if adding VoIP to its app had occurred last year as expected that WhatsApp would have a more favorable standing in the market. However, over the past year, we have seen quite a few of its competitors in the telco and over the top (OTT) already introducing VoIP services. It is possible that at this point, WhatsApp may be entering into a more crowded market than it was hoping for.

In keeping with the company’s desire to have things be simple and easy to use, once you have updated to WhatsApp v2.12.19, you simply click the Calls tab and select a contact to talk to. Another way that the app is being kept simple is that it does not require someone with WhatsApp call feature already activated to call you. All you have to do is download it and you are set to go.

A major factor to keep in mind is that the service will only be as good as the IP network that is providing the Internet connection. Although in general people know and understand this, will it be enough for them to be more forgiving if there are dropouts or lags in their calls?

This could be the route that Facebook needs to take in order to begin generating revenue from WhatsApp and keep moving forward with such possibilities as developing its own SIM brand. Ovum (News - Alert), a market analyst house focused on converging IT, telecoms and media markets, believes that WhatsApp needs to pick up the pace in an effort to  remain competitive in a market where the emphasis is turning toward the use of communications services as a platform for providing content and commerce.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino