Mobile messaging application WhatsApp may have shaken the telecoms industry to its core, putting the SMS text message in the shade. But Big Telecom is fighting back, in a battle some fear it is likely to lose.
Mobile voice calling is predicted to be the next line of battle. "Voice is the next big thing in mobile," Benedict Evans, a mobile analyst from San Francisco-based company Andreessen Horowitz, told CNBC via email. Research analysts at Citi predict that the move of traditional mobile telephone calls to calls made over the internet will be the "biggest transformation of mobile since its inception" and will begin take shape this year.
Traditionally, users have relied on regular PSTN (public switched telephone network) interconnection to speak to others on their mobiles. But like the text message, voice calls can now be facilitated via the internet on mobile. And like the text message, these voice calls would come at a much cheaper price than users have been accustomed to in the past. Telecom operators in Europe still generate more than 50 percent of their revenues from voice services, according to Citi estimates. The brokerage believes that calls would be worth 97 percent less if conducted over the internet.
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"The threat is not as clear to the industry on voice as it was with SMS, but the revenue base at risk is considerably higher," analysts at Citi, led by Georgios Ierodiaconou, said in a research note back in March. They believe that telecoms companies are more aware of the threat from companies like WhatsApp, but say the business models are not better protected.