Instant messaging apps like WhatsApp should be regulated: Bharti Airtel

Written by PTI | Barcelona | Updated: Feb 27 2014, 23:29pm hrs
WhatsAppWhatsApp has been a strong player in Asia, but in the past year has faced strong competition from LINE and WeChat.
Instant messaging application firms like WhatsApp, Line and Skype should be brought under some regulations and jurisdictions, just like telecom firms are regulated, a top official of the Bharti Airtel said today.

"Telecom companies are subject to regulation and jurisdictions. Many of these companies (Instant messaging application firms) operate outside regulations and jurisdiction.

"I think we need a framework by which these companies are subjected to similar jurisdiction... because that will benefit everybody concerned," Bharti Airtel Joint MD and CEO (India operations) Gopal Vittal said.

A debate should start on putting that framework in place, he added.

WhatsApp had recently announced that it would start offering voice service by June this year. Social networking site Facebook had already announced acquisition of WhatsApp by USD 19 billion.

The instant messaging application, which allows users to exchange texts, pictures and videos using smart-phones, is popular in India.

WhatsApp has 450 million users worldwide. It claims it is adding one million new users every day. In the last few quarters, there has been a huge surge in text volumes from platforms like WhatsApp, Tencent-backed WeChat and Line that presents a cheaper alternative to SMS.

The data cost incurred for sending messages through these apps by users are cheaper than those charged by telcos on SMS.

According to experts, the instant messaging has already overtaken traditional SMS, which is a key revenue source for operators. The popularity of such applications has dented the revenues earned from text messaging by telcos.

Asked if the voice services from WhatsApp will be a threat to mobile operators, Vittal said: "I think there are already lots of applications that are offering voice free, so it is nothing new. I think many of these applications are going to be important because at the end of the day they grow our data revenues as well."

Voice calls and text messages (SMS) comprise about 75 per cent of the revenues of telecom operators in India.

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