Apparently, the fear of WhatsApp is a big thing among mobile operators here and there. CCTV reports that some South African mobile operators are calling on the government to regulate Over-The-Top (OTT) content services such as WhatsApp and Skype in the country. Elsewhere, operators have threatened to block WhatsApp and similar services recently. Operators in Nigeria too have groaned about OTT services stealing revenue from their SMS, as well as voice, services.
While the networks complain that OTT services steal revenue from them, that isn’t completely true. OTT services use data, which the networks bill for. The ugly truth is that SMS has been overpriced all the while. SMS runs on excess capacity that a network has, and uses up an infinitesimally small amount of data, yet subscribers are charged heavy rates for it. What WhatsApp, BBM and Skype have done is level the playing ground, tariff wise. That tiny amount of data that a basic text WhatsApp message uses is more like what an SMS uses. The operators have been raking in tons of easy money through SMS.
Sending an SMS costs a mobile network next to nothing, yet subscribers are extorted for it. The operators can groan, complain and wish all they like, but we are certain that subscribers will win this battle. WhatsApp and similar services will not be regulated. At least, one can hope that no government will be that stupid as to let it happen.
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