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Apr 25, 2014 / 08:49

Mobile network operators try to develop OTT apps of their own

Mobile network operators, having lost patience in their efforts to join forces with OTT (over-the-top) app developers, are now trying to develop OTT apps on their own.

BKAV, known in Vietnam as the leading Internet security firm, has officially joined the OTT market with its launch of Btalk, an app that allows users to make calls and send messages free of charge.
The quality of Btalk is still uncertain. However, Nguyen Tu Hoang, Vice President of BKAV, said Btalk’s mission is to replace Viber, a very popular app among Vietnamese at present. Hoang hopes to make Btalk succeed in Vietnam, and then reach out to the world.
Viber reportedly has 10 million users in Vietnam.
Hoang, at the service launching ceremony held in mid-April, said Btalk can avoid many of the problems of prevailing OTT apps. Its advantages will help Btalk become the major piece of software, one that Vietnamese smartphone users will rely on daily.
Starting from April 16, users can access Google Play to install Btalk for Android-based devices. Meanwhile, the versions for iOS and Windows Phone will be available by the third quarter of the year.
Nguyen Dinh Chien, Deputy General Director of MobiFone, one of the three biggest mobile network operators in Vietnam, said MobiFone has reported to the watchdog agency about its plan to develop OTT apps.However, Chien declined to give further details about the apps, saying that they are still experimental.
Seeing the mobile service trend in the future, Vietnamese mobile network operators are now thinking of writing OTT apps which would serve as the platforms for them to design specific service packages.
Viettel’s General Director Nguyen Manh Hung also said the military telecom group is considering developing OTT and shifting to data services. However, he also declined to elaborate on this.
VinaPhone, the third of the three biggest network operators, has also said it is experimenting with OTT apps, because mobile networks will not be able to survive if mobile network operators don’t have their own OTT apps, or their apps cannot exist.
The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication has also predicted that data services, not voice communication services, will be the main source of income for mobile network operators in the next five years.
Network operators have been advised to cooperate with OTT apps developers for mutual benefit.
Teltra, Verizon and AT&T, the big goups in the world, have successfully cooperated with OTT apps developers to provide suitable data service packages which, experts believe, has helped their ARPU (average revenue per user) improve significantly. Teltra’s index, for example, has increased from $20 to $40.
However, no successful cooperation deals have been reported so far [in Vietnam]. The representative of a mobile network operator said his company tried to contact OTT app developers, but the negotiations failed because the developers set overly high requirements.
It is understandable why mobile network operators have gotten impatient. According to Google, 21 million smartphones are used in Vietnam. If every subscriber sends one message and makes one 1-minute call everyday with an OTT app, this means a loss of VND27.3 billion to network operators. Over the course of a year, the lost revenue works out to VND1 trillion.