Friday, March 15, 2013

Skype Competitor Viber Hits 175 Million Users

Messaging startup Viber, which lets users of most smartphone platforms send free texts, calls and messages via its app, is continuing to ramp up its user-base. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona today, CEO Talmon Marco announced  the startup now has 175 million users.

Viber has been around since early 2011, but growing rapidly in the past 12 months. In December it passed 140 million users, saying it was adding new users at a rate of 400,000 per day. Back in September, it hit 100 million users, after hitting 70 million users in May and 50 million in February.

Viber’s app supports iOS, Android, S40, Symbian, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

The messaging space is very fragmented globally, but for some context, Line — a messaging app popular in Japan — passed the 100 million user mark last month. Whatsapp, popular in Europe, is estimated to have around 250 million users. And Skype — the grand-daddy of the space — is thought to have around 800 million users, with some 280 million monthly users as of November last year.

“Sometimes services take off because of pure luck… sometimes it’s timing. It’s the soul that you put into this. The proof is in the pudding,” said Marco.

Also today, Marco said Viber has signed a partnership with Indonesian carrier Axis to offer reduced price packages for consumers in that market using Viber’s free messaging services.

Carriers have an uneasy relationship with so-called OTT (over-the-top) players like Viber — accusing them of stealing the value by luring customers away from carrier services but Marco said carriers and OTT players can work together to the benefit of both, arguing that the consumer who signs up for the lower cost Viber package with Axis will end up upgrading to more expensive data services.

Billing services could be another area where OTT players could partner with carriers, Marco added.

Discussing Viber’s user-base, he said the app is now being used by 90 per cent of the population of Monaco — a wealthy city-state and tax haven — which he argued shows that it’s not the reduced price that lures consumers to OTT players, it’s the novelty of the services.

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