Are carriers going out of the picture? We have discussed before how over-the-top messaging providers are increasingly eating into revenues from SMS messaging and voice calls. The likes of LINE, WhatsApp, Viber and even Facebook Messenger, are becoming a threat to carriers, because they do not only offer basic messaging, but also provide additional services, such as voice messaging, voice calls, multimedia exchange and more. In Asia, stickers are increasingly becoming popular. Japanese chat network LINE is reportedly earning US$ 10 million per month from its sticker shop.
The question now is what carriers are doing to address this potential loss of revenue. Some carriers are reportedly increasing their SMS and data charges, in order to recoup their losses from IP-based messaging providers. Some, however, are already partnering with OTT providers, in order to give added value to consumers, and also earn from these apps in the process.
For instance, in Singapore, SingTel has partnered with WhatsApp to offer unlimited chatting for as low as S$1 per day (US$0.78) daily. In the Philippines, Globe has also partnered with Viber to offer unlimited chatting without a data subscription. The Philippine network (likewise a subsidiary of SingTel) is now increasing its coverage, with its prepaid GoUNLI30 package.
According to Globe, its new offering will include Viber, Facebook Messenger, Kakao Talk, LINE, WeChat and WhatsApp, as well as its own GMessage application. A PhP 30 daily subscription (about US$0.68) lets users chat with their correspondents without the need for an additional data plan. Apart from chatting on these networks, the GoUNLI30 plan gives Globe users unlimited calling minutes and SMS messages to other Globe subscribers, and that of Globe’s MVNO, TM.
Another new plan is the UNLICHAT25 plan, which offers 24-hour access to these messaging plans on mobile devices (without the unlimited calls and SMS).
Data is the future
Peter Bithos, head of Consumer Business at Globe, notes that OTT services are increasingly supplanting SMS and voice calls as the preferred means of communication. “Gone are the days when telco services like SMS are the only way to communicate,” he said. “Our customers are social, technology-savvy users, who constantly look for new ways to connect with their contacts and friend circles – here and overseas. It is our job to allow them to do so at a reasonable price.”
Peter notes that Globe also offers single-app plans like VIBER20, FBMESSENGER20 and KAKAO20, at PhP 20 apiece (US$ 0.42), which give users 24-hour access to these apps.
Peter clarified with e27, however, that Globe has a very different take on the apps-vs-carriers argument. He told us that Globe does not believe that chat apps are “cannibalizing” SMS and calls. Rather, Globe is choosing to focus on providing consumers better access to these services. “We are app agnostic,” Peter said. “Consumers should have a choice as to what app they want to use, and it’s our job as a carrier to deliver that. Finding a business model from this is a secondary concern,” he added.
Different consumers, different approaches
At P30 per day, however, this adds up to about PhP 900 per month (US$ 20.34), which is almost equivalent to a 30-day mobile data subscription for Globe prepaid subscribers. As a prepaid Globe user myself (a loyal one at that), I actually register to Globe’s own GoSakto service, which affords me 500+ minutes, 1,000+ SMS and 300MB of data per month at only PhP 300 or so (US$ 6.78), which in my opinion is a better deal.
Globe also offers other prepaid data subscriptions, such as Powersurf, which gives a user 150MB for 30 days for PhP 149 (US$ 3.37) — good enough for a month’s worth of chatting through popular OTT apps.
Still, for cost-conscious consumers who would rather spend their budget on a daily basis than register to a 30-day subscription, the so-called “sachet” approach popular in the Philippines is still a good way to access mobile chat services without the need to spend heavily.
Peter told e27 that Globe tries to address each kind of subscriber differently. For instance, prepaid users have an advantage when it comes to cost-savings, being able to access services on a per-day subscription. Meanwhile, postpaid subscribers have the advantage of getting free handsets with their contract subscriptions.
Peter shared that Globe is introducing new services and offerings in the next few months to better address the trends in mobile usage today. It seems carriers are going beyond being “dumb pipes” after all.