It may not sound like much, but the devil is in the details as they say. While partnerships with carriers and tech companies is nothing new, this would mark the first time that a tech company is in effect becoming an MVNO, i.e. – a pseudo-carrier that offers services without actually owning its own network. Think of it like MetroPCS or a pre-paid reseller.
E-Plus is now selling a prepaid SIM that gives users unlimited access to WhatsApp outside of their data plans. For a basic about €10, users get starter credits that can go towards domestic calls that cost 9 euro cents per minute or domestic SMS, or 24 euro cents per megabyte of data use. For an extra €10, users get 600 credits that can be used interchangeably for 1 megabyte of data, 1 minute of talk or 1 SMS (each costs 1 credit). Using the SIM, even without any credit left, gives a user access to all the WhatsApp messaging that they might want to use on data networks.
It’s not clear whether WhatsApp voice services, which WhatsApp says are coming but have yet to launch in Germany, will come as part of the deal or whether they will be charged separately, and WhatsApp did not comment on this aspect of its plans. WhatsApp is installed on some 90 percent of smartphones in the country already — working out about 30 million users. This potentially helps E-Plus pick up users off rival carriers, rather than introduce people to WhatsApp.
What it also does is give WhatsApp an opening to positioning themselves in a different way: for users, it’s now associated with being a carrier brand, not just a messaging app. That will be something WhatsApp (and Facebook) could leverage more as it rolls out further telephony and other revenue generating services.