Next generation communications apps have taken off globally, and readers of this blog are likely to be familiar with apps including Skype, iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts.
Internet based communications may have first gained a foothold because they enabled consumers to bypass high tariffs for voice and SMS; particularly call termination, cross-border communications and roaming charges. By doing so they have contributed to the European Single Market.
Next generation communications apps also introduced innovative features including video calling, group calling and chat, presence and photo and video sharing. Communications is also baked in to a wide range of applications and platforms spanning e-commerce (eBay), networking (LinkedIn) and games.
Next generation communications apps also help those with disabilities to communicate using sign language and text to speech. They help to break down language barriers with live voice translation in Skype and a “Tap to translate” feature in Android, and are seeing adoption by enterprise, particularly SMEs.
Messaging apps are now transforming into gateways to artificial intelligence (AI) which promise to save us time and improve our productivity – scheduling events and ordering everything from flowers to car services. Next generation communications apps are becoming platforms in their own right, and are inseparable from the wider ecosystem of devices and apps.
Yet some have argued that next generation communications apps enjoy unfair advantages over legacy services – that the playing field is not level – and that they free ride on the investments made by network access providers.