Cell C launches free WhatsApp calling

2016-01-22 14:31 - Duncan Alfreds, Fin24
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WhatsApp dominates South Africa's instant chat landscape. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town – South Africa's third largest mobile network Cell C is throwing down the gauntlet to its bigger rivals by launching a free WhatsApp calling offer.

Cell C customers on the MegaBonus plan will be able to make free WhatsApp calls from Sunday, January 24, said the company in a statement on Friday.

The move comes as a parliamentary meeting into over-the-top (OTT) regulation is planned for Tuesday, January 26. The CEOs of both MTN South African and Vodacom have previously called for regulators to look at OTT in South Africa as services such as WhatsApp don't contribute financially to local networks.

READ: Vodacom calls for OTT regulation & MTN targets free loading WhatsApp

However, Cell C - which has 22 million subscribers - has differed from rivals MTN and Vodacom by calling proposals to regulate WhatsApp and over-the-top (OTT) services a “detriment of the industry”.

READ: Cell C: Regulating OTTs could hurt industry

“For two years, Cell C has embraced services like WhatsApp and Facebook by offering customers innovative and very affordable products and services. This is just one of the ways we at Cell C can express our protest at the calls by our competitors to regulate OTT services,” said Cell C chief executive Jose Dos Santos in a statement.

READ: WhatsApp faces possible regulation in SA

While all operators offer the ability to make WhatsApp calls, customers are billed for data usage if they are not on a Wi-Fi network.

Dos Santos said that cheaper communications was imperative in South Africa.

“These services offer some of the most affordable communications in the market today and regulating them will only increase the cost to the consumer. This at a time when the industry is being called on to lower the cost to communicate.”

Cell C customers who are unsure of which settings will enable free WhatsApp calling on their mobile phones should dial *147# and select option 8, the company said.

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