Vodacom shrugged off concerns that WhatsApp’s planned voice service would impact their voice revenues, saying that as long as people are using their smartphones, it’s ultimately a positive for the company.
WhatsApp announced in February 2014 that it will add voice calls to its product in the second quarter of this year. This came shortly after Facebook announced that it bought WhatsApp for $19 billion.
Free voice calls (through VoIP) from South Africa’s most popular mobile messaging service should scare mobile operators, but Vodacom said that it is not concerned.
“If anything, this vindicates the massive investment that we’ve been making in our network – over R30 billion in the last six years – with the viability of VoIP services so dependent on the quality of the network connection,” said Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman.
Boorman said that VoIP services from WhatsApp could start to differentiate those operators who have been investing in their networks from those who haven’t kept up.
He added that it is not clear whether WhatsApp’s voice services will have more of an impact on their voice revenues than other products like Skype, WeChat, BBM, Tango, Line and Viber.
“It’s hard to ignore the sheer size of the WhatsApp user base, but so far we’ve not seen VoIP services dramatically impacting usage patterns,” said Boorman.