Kenya already has millions of WhatsApp users, and if a significant portion of these users switch from normal voice to WhatsApp calling the loss in revenue to mobile operators would be huge.
While players like WhatsApp and Facebook have been eating mobile operators’ lunch for years, traditional mobile voice services can fight back.
Here are some of the benefits of traditional voice calls over WhatsApp voice calling.
A minute of WhatsApp call costs around 0.35MB which means you can go for 11 minutes with the safaricom 4MB that cost KSH 5 or more with that Unliminet thing that Never work.
One setback to WhatsApp calls is that the full cost of the call is carried by the caller during a normal mobile voice call. While a WhatsApp Voice requires that all participants foot their own data bills.
It should be noted that when services such as WhatsApp voice calling are used over a Wi-Fi network backed by an uncapped broadband connection, the cost drops to “basically free”.
Mobile operators have the edge when it comes to call quality. Dedicated capacity on an operator’s circuit-switched network means good-quality calls.
WhatsApp voice competes with other data, like file downloads and streaming, which could lead to capacity issues.
Mobile operators are also implementing new technologies like HD Voice and VoLTE, which further enhances voice calling quality.
General benefits of traditional mobile calling
The biggest benefit of traditional mobile calls is that you can call anyone, anywhere in the world.
WhatsApp voice requires the other user to also have WhatsApp. It is also unlikely that WhatsApp voice will enjoy a big uptake in the enterprise market.
And then there is the issue of WhatsApp support. Many people in Kenya have very basic phones which do not support WhatsApp.
The bottom line
While WhatsApp voice will most likely be a popular and cheap alternative to traditional mobile calls for many people, not everyone will jump on the bandwagon.
Traditional mobile calling has a lot going for it, and offers many benefits over WhatsApp voice.
Whether these benefits will be enough to protect mobile operators’ large voice revenues is yet to be seen.