For mobile phone companies, revenues on Eids are mainly driven by SMS, local and international voice calls. In the peak season of Eid Ul Fitr, all of these services saw a decline due to increased usage of social media and messengers courtesy of internet coverage via 3G/4G.
Officials of the mobile phone companies agreed that the mobile phone companies traffic of SMS, local and international calls have decreased slightly compared with the previous year due to services such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, LINE, Viber etc.
In the past, an average subscriber used to increase their SMS and voice activity by more than double on Eid as compared with normal days.
Social media and messenger apps have eaten into traditional revenue streams for telcos in Pakistan
While we can’t figure out the exact revenue drop, we can say that a majority of 13 million users of 3G/4G technologies including 4 million broadband internet users with Wi-Fi services are using social media applications not only for on special occasion such as Eid but in routine communication as well.
However, we can’t say that operators are at a loss totally because subscribers’ usage of mobile internet through 3G/4G technologies, EDGE or GPRS translates into revenue streams on the other side.
According to PTA, the total number of SMS exchanged over the cellular mobile networks dropped to 301.7 billion during 2014-15 as compared to 315.7 billion of 2013-14 showing a decline of 4%.
Similarly, the average SMS per cellular subscriber in a month also reduced to 180 as compared to 214 last year, which showed that the situation will continue to aggravate for SMS traffic this year not only on festivals but in routine also.
The rising using of smart phones coupled with use of mobile internet, Over the Top (OTT) and social media applications such as Whatsapp, Viber, Facebook messenger etc., which allow free messaging and calls, has reduced the dependence of a subscriber on traditional mode of SMS resulting into reduced number of SMS exchanges over cellular mobile networks, the authority made its comment in the last annual report.
First time in history of Pakistani telecom market, the number of SMS exchanged by Pakistanis dropped by 4% in 2014-15 as compared with last year
The traffic of international calls has routed mainly to Skype and Whatsapp from conventional calls whereas domestic calls witnessed very little shift from customers side from conventional to new channels of social media apps.
The shift of using telecom operators conventional services to social media apps is an emerging trend worldwide and is not unique in Pakistan but the subscribers base using mobile internet is considerably thin in our country as compared with the similar and developed telecom economies.
Despite the gloomy news, operators are happy in Pakistan as their services were not suspended by the government this year for the sake of security, which wasn’t the case in PPP’s government and resulted in huge losses.
At present, instant messaging apps are free on all mobile network however Ufone started charging Whatsapp calls whereas Telenor on its Djuice brand introduced an offer of SMS bundles with Whatsapp service quite recently.
In the highly competitive environment, telecom operators, in a move to generate money, may introduce bundles of social media apps associated with their conventional services.