We could imagine your seething rage when you found out SingTel’s CEO Chua Sock Koong wants regulators to let telcos seek payment from over-the-top (OTT) services.
By that, she means services like WhatsApp and Skype.
Hold off the outrage and raised fists for now, though. SingTel’s suggesting that WhatsApp and Skype pay them to use their data. You’re not paying a single cent.
WhatsApp has been providing messaging services, tied to your mobile numbers, to anyone around the world. VoIP calls through Skype’s networks have also obliterated the need to pay through your nose just to make an overseas call.
The biggest draw of these two services? They're free. Absolutely no charge at all.
For now, WhatsApp’s coffers are full with the US$16 billion buyout by Facebook, while Skype, which has been acquired by Microsoft, has its own payment system to sustain its VoIP service and quality.
But when these services are given the either-pay-up-or-your-service-will-suffer ultimatum, it will surely create the need for them to pay more to provide the best service to their users. And when the operation costs for these services go up, will they trickle down to the consumers?
"Free" messaging services
Even now, telcos have launched new data plans targeted at such messaging services. Last year, SingTel offered a WhatsApp Pass plan, which costs S$6 per month and lets customers use WhatsApp without worrying about data charges. In a similar vein, StarHub has partnered with WeChat to provide unlimited data usage on WeChat at S$6 per month for prepaid customers.
If and when these additional costs are dumped on OTT services, don’t be surprised if they come up with more payment systems to enhance message or call delivery, such as high definition calls or raising the upload limit to send huge 41-megapixel photos. Sorry, we shouldn't be giving them too many ideas.
The future is bleak. Your wallet's going to get lighter. Still, let us have faith that nothing's going to change.
Sounds harsh, I know.
Granted, this is still purely conjecture that if telcos manage to get such third-party services to cough up the cash, the cost will unavoidably transfer to the user.
But if that happens, you can bang the table, send a cry of rage to the heavens or scream at the poor customer service officer on the other side of the line. You'll still have to pay up, short of going cold turkey on WhatsApp.
Two words: suck thumb.