MORE and more mobile users in Brunei are turning to free online messaging and voice services and social networks for their day-to-day communication channels via their smartphones.
Apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and the iPhone's Facetime offer free voice and video calls and message services where there is wireless connection, making Short Message Services (SMS) less popular over the recent years following the surge in smartphones and mobile Internet.
Kamarul Azamain, Multimedia Manager at Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam and social media blogger said that SMS has lost its luster as everyone has the ability to send text messaging through a variety of ways on their smartphones and various mobile devices via mobile internet, such as instant messaging, email and social networks.
"I hardly use SMS nowadays, at most probably three times a week. Everyone I need to talk to on a daily basis is on WhatsApp or Line, and at most times me and my friends would rather email each other than use SMS," said Kamarul.
Kamarul said that utilising free online services over cellular services translates to great savings.
The BMobile subscriber who uses an unlimited data plan said that he hardly incurred additional costs for SMS and voice in his monthly bill.
"In the past, my monthly bill always shoot up to my credit limit at $150. In this era of smartphones, SMS is slowly dying.
19-year-old Maisurah Hamdani said that utilising free online services translates to great savings especially for students such as herself.
The polytechnic student was able to save more than $100 worth of credit on her prepaid line simply by utilising her 3G broadband connection or switching to wifi in her campus or at home to communicate with all her contacts via WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter.
"I don't use SMS anymore because everyone prefers to reach me via WhatsApp, and also as a prepaid user it easily drains my credit," she said.
She added that using WhatsApp and social networking platforms are far more engaging and interactive than SMS and voice, adding that it also helped increased her productivity.
"You can share pictures and videos, start a group conversation instantly, you can talk to virtually anyone around the globe at no charge," she said.
Youth Activist Ak Kamal Ghadafi Pg Hj Suhaimi said that the advantages of online messaging services outweighs SMS and Voice especially for frequent travellers such as himself.
"It's so convenient. When I am abroad, I only need Wifi access and I can already engage in a free text, voice or video conversation with my loved ones at home, at no charge," he said.
"Using my 3G wisely, I saved hundreds of dollars from both local and international texts and calls," he added.
In an interview with Oxford Business Group in Brunei Darussalam's The Report 2011, DST CEO Idris Vasi said that the increasing global mobile data consumption is impacting operators globally. Between 2007 and 2010, there was a blended global fall in ARPU (average revenue per unit) by 20 per cent.
He said that international revenue and short message service (SMS) revenue are both dropping, primarily because of players such as Skype, WhatsApp and Gtalk.
In the interview, Idris said that data is going to play an increasingly significant role in stabilising and maintaining ARPU. In most of the world's more developed countries data already makes up a big proportion of ARPU.
"In Brunei, data and SMS together account for a very healthy amount of ARPU, but if you exclude SMS it is not very large. Certainly there is a lot of potential for growth and we have to monetise it properly by offering the right services and content, while at the same time looking at more rational data plans," he said.
Speaking with The Brunei Times two weeks ago, the CEO said that while free online messaging services such as WhatsApp grows in popularity, SMS remains guaranteed delivery.
"There are instances where I use WhatsApp and there is a big lag in the network, I get the message a day later, and I get the message and I don't even know it was sent a day earlier," he said.
"For an SMS, at least if you are sending one there is a 99 per cent chance that you will get it unless there is some instances where there is massive congestion on the network," he added.
He said that in general, SMS has a 99.99 per cent guarantee delivery and it is instantaneous, whereas with WhatsApp or other services, the guarantee is not there and for pre-paid users it may still cost them.
"The other thing is that 26 to 27 per cent are smartphones, while the other 75 per cent are not, so these types of services would not work if the other person doesn't have WhatsApp," he said.
"If you want to send a message to the remainder of the other 75 per cent of the world, then you would still have to send an SMS," he added.
Idris said that as SMS is under threat from the vast free smartphone services, operators need to find alternative revenue streams by looking at various mechanisms.
"One is that operators globally are thinking of creating their own apps. Another involves giving the consumers better pricing and better packaging," he said.
He added, "The third involves doing revenue sharing with over-the-top (OTT) players (WhatsApp, Skype, GTalk, Viber) so the way this works is that operators will say if OTT's are providing certain services to consumers, the operators will provide them with better capacity and bandwidth for their customers."
Hj Umar Ali, Acting CEO of Telbru, in an interview with OBG said that telecoms around the world are transforming to keep up with changes.
"With the common trends of declining voice revenue throughout the industry and the cost of providing data and Internet services skyrocketing, telecoms will not survive this paradigm shift if we simply continue to hold to the status quo," he said.
He said that in order to maintain a market foothold and increase profitability, providers need to review their business models to target vertical services such as applications, cloud computing services, content delivery, product bundling, unified communication, infrastructure wholesale and so on, creating product stickiness and eventually increasing revenues. The Brunei Times
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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