German mobile operator E-Plus has partnered over-the-top mobile messaging service WhatsApp to offer new WhatsApp pre-paid SIM plans. Priced at €10, the WhatsAll Option package offers 600 units for use towards high-speed data, calls or texts. The new tariff plans include free use of WhatsApp even when a customer has no available credit. The WhatsApp SIM starter set costs €10 and includes €10 of credit.
The announcement follows WhatsApp’s recent acquisition by Facebook and announcement it will offer free voice calling in the future.
The partnership is a smart move for both E-Plus and WhatsApp. For E-Plus the deal helps it leverage WhatsApp’s brand popularity to attract new users onto its network and try to offset the impact of lower communications revenues by driving and monetising OTT data usage. Partnering WhatsApp allows E-Plus to innovate with new services and generate revenues through increased use of mobile data traffic.
For WhatsApp – now under the Facebook umbrella – the partnership helps it set in place a potential platform to power its free voice and other revenue generating services. Facebook claims WhatsApp will remain advertising-free; as a result, WhatsApp will need to ensure it is able to develop alternative revenues streams such as keeping its own low cost mobile communications service.
The deal is also different from WhatsApp’s preexisting deals with other mobile operators such as 3 Hong Kong, DiGi and RCom, which bundle WhatsApp services into tariff plans. Instead, WhatsApp co-brands the SIM plans along with E-Plus, a sign of its growing strength in the mobile market.
WhatsApp’s 450m user scale dwarfs most mobile operators. The partnership will help E-Plus retain and attract users, and drive data revenues, a further sign of the growing shift in power in the mobile market. Data revenues are growing, but in many cases not enough to offset the decline in core voice and communications revenues. IHS data shows that in Germany 2013 blended ARPU was down 5% on 2012, despite rising data revenues.
With more than 450 million monthly active users (MAUs), 70 per cent of which are active each day, WhatsApp is wise to continue focusing on its core communication services. According to IHS research, Facebook already offers three of the top five apps in Europe, with Facebook, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.