Vodafone Spain has announced that its zero-rated messaging app, Chat Zero, can now be used throughout the European Union, the United States and six other non-EU countries. The service, which was previously limited to Spain, is available to postpaid users and provides unlimited data for the use of WhatsApp, Telegram, Line, WeChat, BlackBerry IM and Message+ but not for VoIP or video calls.
Although the EU’s new roam-like-at-home rules require Vodafone to offer the service free of charge throughout the European continent, the operator has decided to extend its coverage to Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Turkey, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.
Ever since OTT messaging apps began to pose a major challenge to traditional SMS and voice services, MNOs have been experimenting with various strategies to deal with the situation. As blocking or otherwise resisting OTT apps proved unworkable either for legal or market reasons, operators have tended to embrace them. Zero-rating, where permitted by national net-neutrality regulations, is a popular approach.
Vodafone Spain’s Chat Zero, which was introduced in March 2017, is notable for its equal support of several popular OTT messaging services. By serving as a gateway to six apps, it may have the effect of preventing any single one of them from dominating the market among Vodafone’s customers.
Given the proven popularity of such apps for communicating with friends and family living or working abroad, making them available as widely as possible is likely to boost customer satisfaction and device use. Now that the EU, as part of its regulation to end roaming surcharges (effective June 15), has mandated that zero-rated services be available throughout its territory, Chat Zero will be less competitive than it otherwise would be. Therefore, Vodafone has made a wise decision to expand the service’s range outside the EU and especially to the U.S. This move will give the operator distinction in the marketplace.