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On Telecom vs Internet in a post WhatsApp Voice scenario

Update: updated below with a note on Netflix-Comcast, which possibly shouldn't be causing net-neutrality concerns. Mostly about peering, it appears. March 4th: A friend recently pointed out to me that the acquisition price of WhatsApp (around $19 billion, though mostly in stock) is very close to the market cap of India's largest telecom operator. Sure enough, at the time that this post is being written, Bharti Airtel's full market cap, with the share trading on the BSE at Rs 286, is Rs 1,14,125 crore, which, in dollar terms, amounts to around $18.45 billion. That must hurt. Telecom operators are afraid, and have every right to be. The discussion at the Mobile World Congress, every year, has sprinkings of commentary on telecoms and what they refer rather disparagingly to as OTT (Over The Top) services, which are essentially Internet services delivered over telecom networks. This year, Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp and the announcement that WhatsApp will introduce voice services, has led to an increased focus on the Telco vs Internet situation. Here's an overview of what is happening: 1. The breaking down of telecom operator walled gardens and VAS: Until a couple of years ago, telecom operators in India preferred to focus on their walled gardens, instead of providing pervasive access to the Internet: they had their own WAP portals through which - along with voice and SMS based marketing services - they provided "Value Added Services" (ringback tones, mobile radio, voice SMS, job alerts). The only problem is that much of the…

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Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

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