Rumors about that Chinese Telcos are to charge for WeChat (Weixin in Mandarin) usage went wild in the past week. There are even rumored pricing plans. WeChat has denied all (statement in Chinese). Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent (WeChat’s patent company), said that WeChat’d not have users pay on various occasions in last month.
It had sounded untenable before the minister of MIIT, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, confirmed that operators expected to charge for WeChat and the ministry was “coordinating” on March 31. “(Operators) said that to maintain such a big network they had to make investments and operate it. It’s reasonable to charge somewhere else besides data”, he said operators were required to submit a proposal. He added that the fees wouldn’t be high and he’d bother to care whether ” a good company like Tencent” would be killed by carriers’ leveraging their monopoly positions (in Chinese).
But it’s unknown whether operators wanted to charge are not users, but Tencent. Operators, China Mobile in particular, have made it clear that they were unhappy about the decline in traditional businesses. China Mobile has been accusing Tencent for using too much of their resources while giving little in return.
Financials of carriers’ show that revenues from 3G data plans are not enough compensating the losses, at least at the moment. China Mobile seems suffering the most, given it’s way bigger than the other two operators in terms of 2G services, and it is taken the culprit of the charging plan.
China Unicom, who is comparatively better-positioned than China Mobile in the 3G era, seems not on the same front. Chang Xiaobing, president of China Unicom, said at a recent interview that they hoped over-the-top services like WeChat would come up with good business models. WeChat and Weibo bring operators data consumption (in Chinese).
Telcos are developing their own WeChats.
China Mobile is reportedly revamping Fetion, the product built years ago to compete with Mobile QQ — Tencent’s killer communication software on mobile, into a WeChat knockoff. It goes as far as having added an official account feature, exactly the same with WeChat’s, onto it.
China Telecom, reportedly, also is updating its own mobile messaging service, Yiliao, into another WeChat clone. It was reported that the company reached out to Netease, one of the major Internet service providers, trying to have the latter help with the product and leverage its huge amount of users.
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