Tencent president: Wechat will remain free
                 English.news.cn | 2013-04-07 17:42:23 | Editor: Hou Qiang

  

 

(Xinhua File Photo)

BOAO, April 7 (Xinhua)-- In response to netizens' complaints about the possibility of being charged for using the mobile chat application WeChat, Liu Chiping, president of Chinese Internet giant Tencent, said Sunday that the company's popular software will remain free.

Liu made the remarks at a roundtable discussion held at the Boao Forum for Asia, which is being held from April 6 to 8 in south China's Hainan Province.

The app's large user base will offer room for cooperation with telecom operators, Liu said, adding that there will be no need to charge people for using the app.

Liu's announcement came after Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, said last weekend that telecom service providers may be allowed to impose charges on the WeChat service.

The remarks triggered strong protests from netizens, who accused the country's telecom operators of imposing unfair fees in a drive to maximize monopolistic profits.

With its free voice messaging and photo-sharing features, WeChat has become immensely popular among China's mobile users. According to Tencent, WeChat users surpassed 300 million in 2012.

Some business insiders said the fees might be imposed on app service providers, rather than users, as many had suspected. But some feared that the rising costs would eventually be passed on to consumers.

FAIR PLAY?

Telecom service providers allege that WeChat and other over-the-top (OTT) content service providers should pay for generating excessive data flows, sometimes leading to traffic jams in signaling channels.

Guo Ying, founder and CEO of VIVA Wireless New Media Co, Ltd., explained that popular OTTs like WeChat operate by sending regular "heartbeat-like" signals, which can impose a heavy burden on a busy network.

Whether OTT messaging services should share the costs of network operations has already been a global topic, and the debate was not unique to China, said Wang Jianzhou, former chairman of China Mobile, also at a sub-forum of Boao.

"The surging data flow created by OTTs has led to rising operational costs for telecom operators, who have found it hard to make ends meet by merely charging users for their data flows," Wang said.

Other observers, however, said the arguments about data traffic belied the true conflicts between the ascending popularity of OTT services and dwindling usage of messaging services offered by telecom operators.

The tremendous popularity of WeChat has apparently dealt a blow to similar services developed by China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, China's major three telecom operators.

Moreover, free OTT services have allowed users to bypass traditional communication modes like phone calls and text messaging, two prime "cash cows" for telecom service providers, said Yan Xiaojia, an analyst with Analysys International, an Internet research institute.

Data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology shows that a total of 897.3 billion text messages were sent in China last year, up 2.1 percent year on year, compared with 6.2 percent growth registered in 2011. Experts say the services are losing many users to free messaging apps.

"The rapid expansion of WeChat has taken away the profits of the telecom operators -- this is why they raise their axes," Yan said.

Related:

Monopolies curb innovation by adding fees

BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- In response to grumbles from China's monopolistic telecom operators, the country's industry regulator said last weekend it is possible that the operators will be allowed to impose fees on WeChat for signaling channel usage.

The move has caused quite a stir, with the vast majority of Chinese mobile Internet users, who enjoy using this free, user-friendly chat app developed by Chinese Internet giant Tencent, coming out in strong opposition. After all, they believe charges on app providers will inevitably be passed on to consumers. Full story

Tencent CEO promises free service for popular app

BOAO, April 7 (Xinhua)-- In response to netizens' complaints about the possibility of being charged for using the mobile chat application WeChat, Liu Chiping, president of Chinese Internet giant Tencent, said Sunday that the company's popular software will remain free.

Liu made the remarks at a roundtable discussion held at the Boao Forum for Asia, which is being held from April 6 to 8 in south China's Hainan Province. Full story

Service fees issue reveals challenges Chinese IT companies face

BEIJING, April 8 (Xinhuanet) -- The issue of charging service fees on WeChat has revealed challenges the Chinese IT companies face from competitors, mainly traditional companies running business in the internet industry.  Full story

Telecom giants challenged by smartphone messaging apps

BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) -- China's telecommunications operators are being squeezed by messaging applications installed in the smartphones they encouraged users to buy, which depend on the networks that operators spent pretty pennies to build. Full story

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