Carriers have little to like about Facebook and WhatsApp’s voice and messaging apps
Facebook says its service and phone companies are allies. Some telcos disagree “The premise should be, same services, same rules”
Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the Mobile World Congress, an annual industry gathering held in Barcelona, to reassure phone companies that Facebook is their natural ally. He’d just announced the $22 billion purchase of the WhatsApp messaging service and was touting an initiative called Internet.org, a low-bandwidth suite of basic services carriers would offer in conjunction with Facebook to get hundreds of millions of people online for the first time. He pledged to “build what is going to be a more profitable model with more subscribers for carriers.” By sticking together, the Facebook founder said, both sides could benefit handsomely.
As Zuckerberg prepares to return to Barcelona for this year’s MWC on Feb. 22, phone executives say his company looks more like a competitor than a partner. Last year, WhatsApp introduced free voice calls—something Facebook already offered—and both brands have messaging apps. These so-called over-the-top services cut into mobile carriers’ voice and texting revenue because they’re offered over the Internet. Some phone companies say Facebook and its ilk are freeloaders that rely on carriers’ network infrastructure without spending any money to support it. “WhatsApp is competing with us, not only with messaging but with voice, too,” Telefónica Chief Operating Officer José María Álvarez-Pallete said in August at a telecommunications industry event in the