Cross-platform instant messaging (IM) services are on the rise, and carriers are concerned about losing voice and SMS revenue from the competition. Some are addressing this by partnering with IM providers. Cross-platform IM and VoIP platform Nimbuzz, for example, has been partnering with carriers across Asia.
According to Nimbuzz, it has partnered with Pakistan carrier Mobilink, and the company explains this as a good example of augmenting the app-carrier relationship. Through the partnership, Nimbuzz gains better access to Mobilink’s 35 million subscribers through a discounted “Nimbuzz bundle” which will offer unlimited usage through the Nimbuzz app for smartphones and feature phones.
Nimbuzz CEO Vikas Saxena says “messaging is one of the fastest growing usage categories on smartphones,” and ”it becomes imperative that stakeholders in this ecosystem like telecom companies and Nimbuzz work together to bring out services that best serve this user need.”
Nimbuzz has over 150 million users in 200 countries, with about 41 million from Asia. Partnering with carriers is an opportunity for Nimbuzz to further grow its user base in the region, and is likewise an opportunity for carriers to reap benefits from the growing cross-platform IM and VoIP app space, rather than lose revenue from the decline in SMS and voice usage.
Some carriers in the region are already increasing their SMS and data rates to counter the loss of revenue from IM and VoIP apps, but I believe that partnering with these providers is a better way to address the gap. Users, after all, get better value in gaining access to the messaging platform at a discounted or subsidized price. Take for instance Facebook, which has partnered with carriers to offer free, unlimited access to its Messenger service, as well as Voopee, which is offering Internet voice and messaging as a SIM-free value-added service.
To answer the question whether IM apps will kill SMS this year, it’s a matter of how carriers will react to the trend. Will they try to limit access to internet-based IM applications in favor of SMS, or will they try to partner with providers to retain revenue from data access (or advertising)?