The impact of WhatsApp, and other “Over The Top” messaging clients such as Viber, have been stark. In Western Europe, for example, while mobile data usage is gathering pace, a number of other metrics are very much in retreat. In most countries around Europe, minutes of use has contracted up to 4.5% quarter on quarter. Similarly text messaging was down between -0.5% and -7.8% for those countries QoQ. As ABI Research’s Mobile ARPU Market Data has shown, monthly average revenue for Western Europe continued to decline in 3Q-2012.
In August 2012, the software developer announced it was now handling tens of billions of messages per day. There is a WhatsApp client for all the major handset OS platforms, Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian and Windows Phone. They are not only just affecting domestic messaging traffic but also international messaging traffic, which has been a big money earner for operators.
Mobile operators are responding with “Rich Communication Services”, which is being enthusiastically promoted by the GSM Association. Features supported include: Standalone Messaging; 1-2-1 Chat; Group Chat; File Transfer; Content Sharing; Social Presence Information; IP Voice call; Best Effort Video call; and Geo-location Exchange. Operator examples rolling out RCS include Orange and Vodafone. Orange will be launching in early 2013 a Rich Content Service, in collaboration with Facebook, called “Party Call”. The service will allow users to call friends from “within” Facebook. In December 2012, Vodafone’s venture capital arm, Vodafone Ventures, led a US$ 8.3 million funding round to form “Jibe Mobile”. But is it too little, too late?