Thumbing a nose at its competitors in the raging debate over “over the top” (OTT) services, mobile operator Cell C has announced it will provide free WhatsApp calling to some of its customers.
However, the offer is limited in that it will only be available from Sunday, 24 January until the end of the the month and only to contract customers and prepaid users on its “MegaBonus” plan. Eligible customers will not pay for data consumed when making calls over WhatsApp.
“Customers who want to use WhatsApp calling must ensure that their handsets have the correct settings to ensure they are not charged for data,” Cell C said.
It’s not clear if the promotion is meant as a once-off campaign or whether it’s being used to test the waters.
In a statement, Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos said the decision was prompted in part as a “protest at the calls by our competitors to regulate OTT services”.
Cell C appears eager to use the debate over whether OTT providers should be regulated to swing public sentiment in its favour. In the past 18 months, MTN, Vodacom and Telkom have all cautioned about the impact OTT services could have on their businesses.
Unlike its rivals, Cell C has worked closely with some OTT providers to introduce new services in South Africa, including Facebook’s Free Basics, which offers free access to a limited set of websites and services.
Parliament’s portfolio committee on telecommunications & postal services will hold a public meeting on Tuesday next week to discuss the possible regulation of OTT services.
“The mobile industry across the world is changing and at a far faster pace than many would have expected. Cell C understands that alienating OTT players and the unique services they offer will only disempower consumers,” Dos Santos said in the statement.
“By creating partnerships with OTT players, network providers have the ability to find ways for everyone to benefit.
“These services offer some of the most affordable communications in the market today and regulating them will only increase the cost to the consumer. This at a time when the industry is being called on to lower the cost to communicate.”
Dos Santos said that although “regulation has its place, the focus should rather be on ways to reduce input costs of the mobile players, including infrastructure sharing, access to valuable spectrum and the development of a national broadband network for the delivery of next-generation broadband technologies”. — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media