|SMSing the future|
|Thursday, 24 November 2011 00:00|
The new free SMS service released by Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia is the next step in a process already well under way. The service, called JaxtrSMS, allows users to send SMSs to anybody around the world for free. This in itself isn’t what sets the application—downloadable across most mobile platforms—apart. There are many others, like the popular WhatsApp, that do the same: send and receive messages over a phone’s data service rather than the usual SMS service. What is different about JaxtrSMS is that it allows users to receive messages sent via the service even if they don’t have the app installed, unlike apps like WhatsApp that only work if both parties have it installed. Much like Hotmail and its contemporaries freed email from being restricted to only one computer and made it far more versatile, data-based messaging is changing the way we send and receive byte-sized information, be it video, audio or text. Being free of charge as far as the service provider goes, the only thing the user pays is for the data service. In fact, the same trend is happening in voice services as well. Voice over IP (VoIP) apps like Skype are already being used on phones, allowing people to talk to each other for free by using only the mobile data network. Also, with the general trend in India being that mobile voice tariffs are going down (the recent small hikes notwithstanding), it’s only a matter of time before service providers consolidate their 3G services and start dropping their data tariffs as well, or introduce plans like unlimited data use for a fixed monthly cost, say, R500 a month.
Now consider this: In the not-inconceivable future, everybody has at least a data-enabled phone, and data service penetration is excellent. With VoIP services and SMS services like JaxtrSMS, the only role service operators will have is to provide Internet; they could very well have to shut down their voice and SMS networks. That’s perhaps a long way off, but it gives some indication as to why these companies are focusing so much on the 3G auctions.