Why pass up an amazing money-making opportunity?
The days of free WhatsApp may soon be numbered if Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong has her way. During the conference where Singtel unveiled its new logo, along with the “Better Thursday” carrot stick, she restated her belief that telcos should be allowed to charge content providers such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
Not the first time
Chua had mentioned this idea before, at the February 2014 Mobile World Congress. But the measure was ultimately shelved amidst widespread public outrage.
Reasons, excuses or threats?
The rationale behind charging such providers is probably due to telcos losing business to them. For example, the relentless advent of WhatsApp has more than rendered SMSes useless. This would have had taken a big bite out of the telcos’ ability to charge subscribers for exceeding their monthly allocated number of SMSes.
Chua cited supporting examples such as popular video streaming service, Netflix, which pays broadband provider Comcast for a speed boost. Chua commented that such arrangements were not new, and were something that had been going on for some time.
Chua’s speech also carried an ominous forewarning:
“If network owners do not upgrade their network, OTT (over-the-top) content players (WhatsApp, Facebook etc) cannot deliver a good experience to their customers.”
Chua on net neutrality
US President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union speech touched on net neutrality, a system where all internet data is treated equally. That means that providers should allow customers to access to all content and applications, and without favouring or blocking specific services.
However, Chua maintains that the charging of content providers is in no way related to net neturality. She says the two are “unrelated”, and promises that they would still continue to feature “all content”.
Singtel later issued a clarification that it was not intending to charge WhatsApp users separately. However, this assurance may not hold true for long. Singtel could very well find a way to infuse these charges into the fixed mobile price plans of subscribers, allowing them to regain some of the lost revenue. Alternatively, WhatsApp and other content providers may be forced to impose monthly subscription fees on Singapore users in response to potential telco charges.
All in all, this smells of yet another Singtel scheme to earn more in profits. The slashing of our data bundle from 12GB to 2GB, the exorbitant pricing of the football package on mio TV; we could soon add WhatsApp charging to the list.