WhatsApp poses threat to local mobile providers
LOCAL mobile providers are remaining silent on whether they will be allowing the full WhatsApp's messenger service on their platforms. The service would allow an unprecedented number of Jamaican mobile users access to call outside a mobile provider's network.
Official responses from Digicel and LIME only lauded the speeds of their mobile networks to facilitate data. But specifically avoided queries on the proposed WhatsApp service set to launch in the second quarter of 2014.
"I would prefer to say that we would allow it," added Elon Parkinson spokesperson at LIME in a telephone conversation when quizzed on the meaning of the official response.
The cell providers cannot block the service on wi-fi networks but can by interference regulate the service once it goes over their respective networks.
Skype which connects mainly with user identification and LIME a WhatsApp rival already offer free voice calls. But WhatsApp is so heavily integrated with mobile that it could impact greater on voice revenues.
LIME's official statement read: "We were among the first to recognise the shift in customer preference from pure voice to include mobile data service. That's why we are always positioning our network to be 'future-ready' to provide the best services available in the market to our most discerning customers. We were first to deploy fast 3G mobile data technology to Jamaica because we demonstrated foresight in catering to future market trends -- including advancements like WhatsApp. Our ongoing US$79-million mobile network upgrade and expansion project will deliver ultra-fast speeds that will cater to subscribers' innovative, high-bandwidth usage of wireless Internet".
Last month, US-based website Facebook agreed to buy WhatsApp for US$19 billion in an acquisition deal larger than any done by rivals Google, Microsoft or Apple. Facebook will pay US$12 billion in stock and US$4 billion in cash. WhatsApp reportedly has 465 million monthly users and 330 daily users.
"As a brand that is always delivering great value through our products and services we watch with interest what the coming together of Facebook and WhatsApp will mean for Jamaica's data lovers," indicated Digicel in its response to Caribbean Business Report queries.
"One of the biggest recent communication trends is the increased demand for 4G mobile data -- Jamaican customers realise more and more that Internet on their mobile device is a must-have. Customers want to update their Facebook statuses, post their latest photos on Instagram, stream movies as well as visit their favourite websites."
Digicel added that it would continue to invest "heavily in its 4G Mobile network" to facilitate data.
Digicel and LIME have both rolled out prepaid data plans which offer services as low as $50 a day.
The Office of Utilities Regulation in its latest Quarterly Report for Telecommunications Sector Entities indicate that smartphones aided the 165 per cent rise in mobile data revenue to $1.19 billion in the first-quarter 2011 over year earlier levels. The regulator discloses dated statistics ostensibly to protect competition. However, the rise occurred during a period of flattening revenue earned via voice calls at $5 billion year-on-year. Voice calls, however, still account for the major part of total mobile revenues at some $7.1 billion for the quarter.