Jan Koum,Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Whatsapp, a social messaging service recently acquired by Facebook for US$19billion, has commended Ghana for its innovative approach to using its mobile application.
Mr. Koum, making his first public appearance at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona after the acquisition by Facebook, was narrating WhatsApp’s journey since being founded five years ago.
Citing how useful the application has been to the over-450 million subscribers around the globe, Mr. Koum singled out Ghana as a country that is using the product in a way he and Brian Acton — the other Co-founder — never envisaged when they established the application.
According to him, though he had learnt of several uses of the service from across the globe, mails he had from Ghana that the university students are using the WhatsApp messenger to hold discussions with their lecturers, and even compare notes among themselves in a group, left him astounded.
Mr. Koum added that such application of his messenger, particularly, shows how important and indispensable the service has been since it was established.
On the future of the messenger, Mr. Koum said Whatsapp intends to introduce voice over its platform by summer as already being executed by BBM talk, Kakao talk, Viber etc. This means that with a simple data connection, WhatsApp users may be able to place phone calls to each other at minimal cost.
Already, this announcement has triggered apprehension among some industry analysts who are wondering how this will impact on mobile operators’ revenue generation from voice services.
However, CEO of Millicom International Cellular S.A., Hans-Holger Albrecht, said operators are indeed preparing adequately these developments — and are excited about the fact that these Gong Jianzhong innovations or OTT (Over-the-top) players are also increasing data usage of mobile subscribers, and operators are aware voice will become free in the long-term.
“So there is a dire need to grow infrastructure with the world requiring about US$1.5trillion to meet the upcoming demand of data by 2020 with the introduction of budget (low-cost) US$50 smartphones.
Data from the country’s sector regulator, National Communications Authority, indicated that the number of mobile Internet subscribers reached the 10million mark last year, a figure it described as “average”.
The data market, which is considered as the next frontier for network operators, grew by 19.5 percent last year from 8.6 million access lines in January to 10.3 million at the end of December — putting the rate of data penetration at almost 40% in a population of 26 million.
By: Richard Annerquaye Abbey, Barcelona
Courtesy Ghana Chamber of Telecoms