International Voice Calls Cost Drops by 29% Thanks to Skype & Whatsapp
A case study of the Kenyan Diaspora reveals that African living abroad are making few calls home via the conventional telephone means, as they turn to more advanced technologies that allows them to make cheaper calls. To be specific, a growing number of Diasporas are turning to the free internet apps like Skype and Whatsapp to communicate with families and friends back at home.
According to data studied by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), international incoming voice traffic totaled 146 million minutes in the last 3 months to December last year, which is a 28.7% drop compared to the same period in the year 2012 where it totaled 204.9 million. Equally, international outgoing voice traffic dropped from 153.7 million to 118.9 million minutes under the same period under review.
CAK says that the increasing use of the free 3rd party apps has significantly reduced cross-border voice traffic. “This decline could have been attributed to availability of alternative OTT (over the top) voice and/or video services such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber, Ovoo among others” says CAK. However the opposite can be said about international SMS traffic. The CAK data over the same period reveals a 156% increase in international incoming SMS totaling 32.6 million texts, and the international outgoing SMS increased to 14.6 million from 9 million under the same period of review.
CAK said, “Traffic volume for SMS continued to grow amid increased popularity in the use of OTT messaging services such as Whatsapp…The growth in international incoming SMS could partially be as a result of the decline in international incoming voice traffic”. Locally the number of telcos subscribers who are turning to using the free 3rd party apps to send pictures and short videos has increased, making the use of multimedia SMS (MMS) services take a sharp decline. The use of the free 3rd party apps like Whatsapp are robbing the telcos the opportunity to cash in on the use of multimedia SMS which conventionally the telcos charge higher if the subscribers use them.
Similarly these free 3rd party apps, deny the telcos profit from international voice traffic, which the telcos charge comparatively higher compared to what they charge for internet services subscribers use with these free 3rd party apps to make international voice calls. Taking into account that the popularity of tablets and smartphones continue to grow among telcos subscribers, you should expect the telcos to make even less profit from international voice calls, as more subscribers will be using these free 3rd party apps.
Currently the number of local subscribers using low-end devices surpasses those using high-end devices, so the numbers of subscribers making calls and sending SMS via the telcos services are still significantly high. But a number of young and tech-savvy populations are increasingly buying the high-end devices which will slowly but surely render the conventional telcos services obsolete. Considering that internet penetration in Kenya currently stands at over the 50% mark, with users primarily accessing internet services through their mobile phones.
By December, 2012 internet penetration stood at 41.1% and by December, 2013 it stood at 52.3%, largely attributed to introduction of 3G mobile phone data services. A considerable usage of these data services was on social media mostly by the youth. Whatsapp being the most popular app, allows users to move away from the conventionally expensive MMS but still able to send rich multimedia messages cheaply via the internet.