At a time when telecom service providers are getting set to launch video calling services on the 4G network, the game may be slipping before they start. A year after it launched free voice calling in 2015, global messaging platform WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – has introduced free video calling. What that means that if the user is not on a wi-fi network, he will end up with cellular data charges for the video call.
But, this seems to be the season for launching free video calling. The service is already available on Google Duo and Hike. All WhatsApp users need to do is update the app, open a chat, select the contact and go to the video camera. Video calling will be possible on all mobile device, be it Android, iPhone or Windows devices. Jan Koum, CEO and co-founder WhatsApp stated that video calling has been one of the most requested features from India.
The big hit could be to telecom service providers who propose to launch video calling as one of the new features on their 4G networks – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio. WhatsApp could do to video calling what it did to the global SMS market. WhatsApp which has almost killed the SMS market, could do the same for international calling and video calling with these new launches. India has a record of 8 billion messages sent on the WhatsApp platform in a single day. That’s almost five messages by each of the 1.25 billion people. India also happens to be WhatsApp’s biggest market with 160 million users. Says Neeraj Arora, WhatsApp India’s business head: Video calling is in line with our mission to make sure that people stay in touch with family and friends.”
One worry has been whether the service would work in areas where network coverage is not all that good. It is believed that it will work even where networks are not that good. However, that could mean a lower resolution video is transmitted. Now that video calling has become free, it remains to be seen how quickly this service gains traction in India. If nothing else, greater usage could mean more data revenues for telecom service providers.