Facebook VOIP: a scary ecosystem for mobile operators?

In 2011, Facebook secretly tested its VOIP, a voice calling system among its users. 2 years down the road, the system is now being deployed. Once a social media firm only, Facebook is now stepping into full-scale multi-communication services, from messaging, to email, SMS, and now voice chat. With this new feature, the social media giant has now come in direct competition with Voxer, Viber and other VOIP calling apps for android and iOS.

What is the real threat?

However, the biggest threat isn’t really the competition, but the mobile telecom market who rely on  voice and SMS revenue for survival.  The recent growth in the use of 3G/ Wi-Fi to support Skype & Viber telephonic calls mean a full revenue risk waiting to happen.

A recent report by TeleGeography, a telecom market analysis firm, showed that the worldwide Skype usage is now equivalent to over one-third of all international phone traffic—a record level. The data also showed that while international telephone traffic grew by 5% in 2012, cross-border Skype-to-Skype voice and video traffic grew by 44%. This increase of nearly 51 billion minutes is more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined.

How is Facebook helping?

Facebook is trying to cut on cost for its users in an effort to dominate VOIP calling by using short 1 minute voice messages. We all know how Facebook is desperate to monetise its services and this could be one step of earning through mobile targeted ads via VOIP.

Any surprises?

The most surprising fact is that Facebook does not seem to be developing or deploying the latest VOIP system based on a partnership with Microsoft’s Skype’s video calling. The new feature is to be released in the company’s messenger app with already over 1 bn downloads globally. The users would be able to record and send a 1-minute clip through this app and send to their friends, who would receive it on their end in the News Feed.

Mobile telecom operators could get a hit in their profits in the result of declining voice calls if Facebook successfully manages to make its users habitual users of short voice messages over Wi-Fi and/or 3G networks.