Facebook has added VoIP calling to its Messenger app and will be testing it first in Canada. Users will be able to make calls to each other through their Facebook pages and will have the option of leaving pre-recorded messages on a friend’s page, similar to voicemail. There will be no charge for individual calls or voice messages, only the applicable data usage fees when calls are made over a mobile operator’s network (as opposed to via a free Wi-Fi connection).
This new voice service is likely to add to both the utility and applicability of Facebook’s services, and by doing so will enhance the social-media giant’s core feature and raison d’être – communication. As a step forward, it makes absolute sense for Facebook since the VoIP service simply provides people with yet another way to do what they have already been doing via Facebook for years. And, given the growing acceptance of “Bring Your Own Device” solutions to workplace mobile usage, Facebook’s new voice service could have a big impact in the business sector, as well.
We believe this development is noteworthy given Facebook’s enormous scale and geographic reach. With a billion users worldwide, half of whom have mobile devices, we think Facebook has a real possibility of changing the way in which a sizable segment of the population communicates via mobile phones. It could, in fact, turn out to be the “mother of all” OTT services, even if it doesn’t technically qualify as one.
While we don’t yet know how user-friendly or compelling the new Facebook feature will be, there can be no doubt that by offering free calls for hundreds of millions of people, it represents yet another challenge for mobile operators to overcome.