Orange Romania has launched a youth-oriented offer called “Fluture 12” which includes unlimited on-net SMS, 3,000 on-net calling minutes, 150 minutes or messages to national numbers or international fixed numbers, 300 MB of data, and access to the “Libon” VoIP network operated by Orange, the France-based parent company. The Libon app is compatible with iOS and Android devices and allows users to make unlimited calls and send unlimited text messages to other Libon subscribers around the world. It also has a voice messaging service.
We are delighted to see a mobile network operator fighting back against OTT players like Skype and Google Voice, which have been threatening to take a substantial chunk of market share away from MNOs for some time now. With Libon, Orange has effectively created its own OTT alternative. The model is similar to that of Skype: Offer the basic service free while charging for premium services. By developing its own OTT service, Orange is now well positioned to generate additional revenues, from the aforementioned premium services, while protecting its home turf from OTT interlopers. We believe Libon has the potential to turn the tables and “disrupt the disrupters.” However, Orange needs to have scale on its side. Since Libon users can only communicate with other Libon users, Orange has to make the service ubiquitous (or nearly so), if it is to represent a real alternative to the Skypes of the world.
Orange has a long way to go before it reaches that point. To put it in perspective, Libon has 2,477 followers on Twitter, whereas Skype has 460,000 and Google Voice has 135,000. We are not saying the latter have huge or even particularly impressive numbers in the world of Twitter, but they do show the relative differences in scale. Whatever the challenges that lie ahead, though, we believe other operators should diligently and quickly follow Orange’s lead. Eventually, if enough MNOs create OTT services, and then make them interoperable so that users from any such service can send and receive free calls and texts to users on any other service, the entire raison d’être for OTT providers could evaporate.