A few weeks after the acquisition of US-based voice-calling company Zip Phone, India’s Hike today announced its free voice calling feature that works over 2G, 3G, or wifi. Hike’s voice calling is now in beta on the Android version of the app; it’ll arrive on iOS and Windows phones by the end of this quarter. With the slow mobile internet in India and a small percentage of mobile users accessing 3G and 4G, Hike aims to please the mass market with the app’s low bandwidth consumption.
VietTalk is the third OTT (over-the-top) service provided by a Vietnamese enterprise after Zalo of VNG and Btalk of Bkav. It works like other OTT services in terms of calling, texting, voice and multimedia messages and group chat. Like other OTT apps, VietTalk can be installed in all smartphones connecting to mobile phone networks in the country. VietTalk users will have to pay for the service while users of other OTT apps do not pay for the app service but are still subject to 3G or GPRS charges.
BENGALURU: Bharti Airtel was at the receiving end of a brutal backlash on the Internet after it decided to impose special tariff for voice calls made over services like Skype or Viber. The telecom operator’s decision to charge more for voice services that run using data is being vehemently opposed by consumers, many of whom took to the Internet to vent their anger.
The Indian Government will look into Airtel’s plan to charge separately for VoIP (voice calls over Internet) services offered by apps like Skype, Viber, and Line. According to a statement on the website of the Indian telecom giant, “All internet/data packs or plans (through which customer can avail discounted rate) shall only be valid for internet browsing and will exclude VoIP (both incoming/ outgoing). VoIP over data connectivity would be charged at standard data rates of 4p/10 KB (3G service) and 10p/10 KB (2G service)”.
Quy Nguyen is a Vietnamese, but he usually travels between Hanoi and Guangzhou, China, for business. When he is in Vietnam, he can contact his Chinese partners in Guangzhou with WeChat. “WeChat is the only OTT app Guangzhou people can use,” he explained. Nguyen said due to Chinese characters, it always takes a lot of time to write text messages. Therefore, to communicate with Chinese partners, he would rather make calls or send voice messages.
Zalo, a 100 percent Vietnamese OTT app, has 20 million users, a surprising figure to many people. In the eyes of Vietnamese, locally made products are often seen as having an inferior quality to foreign products. However, the “principle” is not true in the case of Zalo. The OTT market had a great war in 2012-2013, with some players dislodged from the market. These included Wala, a young player which could not survive the stiff competition.
Impacted by sharp falls in revenues, local mobile carriers are reportedly trying to block OTT services, which allow users to make free phone calls and send free text messages. In reality, users have found the quality of OTT services is declining. The ministry is collecting suggestions for a draft circular managing Internet-based call and texting services. The draft stipulates that telecom firms are disallowed to bar OTT services in Vietnam.
Mobile network operators and OTT app developers have finally found a way to co-exist. According to Harald Preiss, a senior executive of Nokia Networks, in the countries which have been utilizing 4G technology like Japan, mobile network operators now provide free voice call and SMS service as a part of the monthly data package service, and they only charge fees for data services. As such, when customers use OTT services, mobile network operators can earn money, while users will be more satisfied because they can use high-quality services.
BKAV, known in Vietnam as the leading Internet security firm, has officially joined the OTT market with its launch of Btalk, an app that allows users to make calls and send messages free of charge. The quality of Btalk is still uncertain. However, Nguyen Tu Hoang, Vice President of BKAV, said Btalk’s mission is to replace Viber, a very popular app among Vietnamese at present. Hoang hopes to make Btalk succeed in Vietnam, and then reach out to the world. Viber reportedly has 10 million users in Vietnam.