Image | David Goehring
After seeing their SMS revenues vanish into nothing, telephone companies may now be excluded from the voice call business, too. Technology has changed the way we communicate, and its not just the written word that has beaten telephone calls: now, instead of having to use up minutes of voice time, many companies offer their customers the alternative of using data instead.
More and more companies are opting for VoIP calls or cloud-based calls. One of the first companies was Tuenti. The social network, which was created by Zaryn Dentzel, became a virtual mobile operator under Telefónica and decided to create special rates for users who made calls using its smartphone app.
Although most telecom companies don’t necessarily see these apps as a major threat, there are some that, to cover their backs, have decided to take positions in VoIP technology. Last December the virtual operator MÁSmovil acquired UppMobile, a startup that already had a calling services agreement over the Internet. With its UppTalk application MÁSmovil users can talk on the phone using wifi or a data plan.
A similar move was made in the past by Amena with its Libon application. Customers of the virtual operator Orange could download this app on their smartphones or tablets and have up to 60 minutes per month of calls to mobile phones and landlines within the country.
In addition, there are some companies that have ventured into this sector without the support of a traditional telco. That’s the case for Masvoz, which offers cloud-based calling solutions for businesses.
Image | Max Khokhlov
All these companies have ventured into a territory where, in addition to competing among themselves, also must compete with established applications like Skype, WhatsApp or Viber that either already offer or plan to offer users the option of calling through the Internet. While this service has not yet reached the app, WhatsApp’s founder Jan Koum already announced it was coming. Although he said at last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that VoIP would catch up with Whatsapp in 2014, the hierarchy of priorities has given more importance to the arrival of chat to our desktop computers.
But before you decide to jump into the WhatsApp world of VoIP calls, many other software firms have already opted for cloud-based phone calls. The most famous undoubtedly being Skype. Years after the program arrived to our computers, putting us in contact with family and friends living beyond borders, the company with Estonian origins landed on our mobile devices.
In the opposite direction, but a step ahead of WhatsApp, the instant messaging app Line launched a VoIP service calls to landlines and mobiles. The South Korean company launched Line Call to attempt to wrestle the throne from Skype, something that even Facebook has aspired to. Shortly after the acquisition of WhatsApp, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his chat, Messenger, would also include Internet calls.
Everyone seems to want to have some skin in the game. Google also came to the table to try its luck with Hangouts. There are some aces and queens at the table, and though some have worse hands than others, everyone wants to win. First, of course, they will have to convince the users.