Cell C has announced it is making WhatsApp Calling free to its customers from Sunday for the remainder of the month.
It says it is dousing this ”to show its support for all over-the-top (OTT) players and their unhindered participation in the South African mobile industry”.
The move comes following calls by rivals MTN and Vodacom for the operators to be protected from OTT players by the regulator, Icasa. They believe that these players are having a free ride on their infrastructure, costing them revenue without giving anything in return.
“For two years, Cell C has embraced services like WhatsApp and Facebook by offering customers innovative and very affordable products and services. This is just one of the ways we at Cell C can express our protest at the calls by our competitors to regulate OTT services,” says Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos.
Cell C points out that the mobile industry across the world is changing and at a far faster pace than many would have expected, and that “Cell C understands that alienating OTT players and the unique services they offer will only disempower consumers”.
By creating partnerships with OTT players, network providers have the ability to find ways for everyone to benefit: “Cell C has a use case, having grown its customers using WhatsApp and Facebook since the introduction of its social application focussed products.”
Says Dos Santos, “These services offer some of the most affordable communications in the market today and regulating them will only increase the cost to the consumer. This at a time when the industry is being called on to lower the cost to communicate.”
Dos Santos says while regulation has its place, the focus should rather be on ways to reduce input costs of the mobile players including; infrastructure sharing, access to valuable spectrum, and the development of a national broadband network for the delivery of next generation broadband technologies.
Cell C will continue to embrace OTT services as they have become invaluable services to consumers and will voice its stance to the Portfolio Committee on Tuesday.
Customers who want to use WhatsApp Calling must ensure that their handsets have the correct settings to ensure they are not charged for data. Customers can get the correct setting by dialling *147# and selecting option 8. They can also contact the Cell C Call Centre on 084 140 for assistance.
All contract customers and prepaid customers on the MegaBonus plan will be able to make calls free of charge, with no data costs incurred using the WhatsApp Calling feature.