In a closed media luncheon yesterday, where the WeChat team is kind enough to extend an invitation to Vulcan Post, Poshu Yeung, Vice President, International Business Group, Tencent, said that they were actively talking to Singapore’s main telco SingTel, though the contents of that discussion were not mentioned.
This follows the public outcry after Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong called for plans to charge over-the-top (OTT) messaging providers like WhatsApp and Skype. Yeung, however, does not see them as rivals.
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For those unfamiliar with WeChat, its a messaging app that allows you to chat with your friends. Other than that, you can also make free voice call, video call, send short voice messages as well as playing games with one another. A month ago, the company announced that it has surpassed over 100 million international Android downloads.
“We’re entering a new ecosystem,” Poshu said. “We can’t live without telcos. And if you remove OTTs (Over-The-Tops), what are you going to use? If you look at Google play and apple app store, how many apps are people downloading? Less than ten. How many of them are OTTs? More than five.”
Over-the-top content (OTT) refers to delivery of video, audio and other media over the Internet without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content. The provider may be aware of the contents of the Internet Protocol packets but is not responsible for, nor able to control, the viewing abilities, copyrights, and/or other redistribution of the content. WeChat and other messaging apps are examples of OTTs.
Any collaboration with WeChat will come to no surprise. Aside from being one of the world’s fastest growing social app, WeChat’s movement into the Southeast Asia space has been gradually picking up speed, now boasting market penetration rates of 90% in Malaysia, and 70% in Singapore, even with big local players like WhatsApp and Skype.
For telcos such as SingTel, it’s a win-win for them too since OTT services (like WeChat) will drive up data usages, with the average chat app user spending a whopping average of 5 to 6 hours on their app.
The ecosystem of telcos and OTT services, according to Yeung, will include ongoing discussions and collaborations, such as their tie-up with StarHub to bring about WeChat Zero. SingTel already has similar tie-ups with messaging rival WhatsApp, in the form of WhatsApp Pass, which offers unlimited usage at a certain price.
Perhaps time will tell if Singtel will do something similar with WeChat.