We’re writing a lot about Tencent’s WeChat these days as it continues to grow in popularity. But the bigger it gets, the more users it pulls away from traditional telecom services and the more bandwidth it eats up. Chinese telecoms aren’t happy about this, and the question of whether to charge Tencent for access to their mobile networks or come up with some other way of recouping their losses has been a topic of discussion in the industry for months.
On Thursday, China Mobile Research Institute president Huang Xiaoqing told a reporter from the 21st Century Business Herald that what to do with WeChat should be left up to the market:
As to whether to charge [WeChat] money or not, this shouldn’t be a question for the government and telecom operators, nor for telecom operators and an internet company. It should be decided by the market [...] The consumer may not ultimately be willing to pay the price for the bandwidth [needed for WeChat]. But we have 800 numbers that people can call at no cost to themselves. In the future will there be something like an 800 number for data traffic? Perhaps that kind of product will appear in the future.
It certainly sounds like Huang thinks Tencent should be charged directly for WeChat’s bandwidth usage, although he hasn’t said that explicitly here. The idea of an 800-style free-to-consumers service for mobile data is also quite interesting, and a mouthwatering proposition for telecoms that at the moment are seeing social media and messaging apps pull more and more users away from paid services like texting.
(21st Century Business Herald via Sina Tech)