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What's New for Messaging Technology in 2019

Mobile World Congress - arguably the biggest mobile technology event in the world - is now behind us. Everyone who attended is busy with their post-event task lists. This means it's high time to publish a short recap of what we saw this year.  

Let’s take a look, which topics were widely discussed and what is happening in 2019 for mobile technology. 

As you might imagine, the most important topics for Messente from MWC 2019 revolved around messaging. 

And of course, we already had some questions that needed answering:  

  • What are the technologies and commercial solutions that would shape the messaging industry the most this year?

  • What is the progress of the bigger OTT platforms who have introduced their business APIs (technological and commercial readiness + traction)?

WhatsApp not quite commercially ready 

WhatsApp

WhatsApp launched its business API in August 2018, a move that created a lot of PR given its 1.3 billion users globally. Undoubtedly WhatsApp is a force to be reckoned with in the messaging world. 

However, what was launched was a handful of pilot projects with companies like Uber, Netflix, and a few other Silicon Valley-based tech giants. 

Probably the biggest surprise of this year's MWC for us was that the development has been quite slow.  

Understandably, WhatsApp is moving carefully to avoid spam issues and trying to determine price points which do not undervalue its reach and rich features. But more than 6 months from the launch, the business API is still not commercially ready. At least not enough to be made available to a wider circle of companies apart from handpicked pilot projects and test services. 

Our current evaluation of the commercial readiness breaks down to these three categories: 

1) The first part WhatsApp needs to figure out is the process of approving senders and templates they use so it can avoid flooding their users with spam.  

At the moment, this process exists, but it's slow and not scalable. Which means they need to almost completely reinvent it if the business API is to be made publicly available.

2) Perhaps the technological solution is the part which has seen the most progress since the launch. There is enough documentation available for developers to prepare for integration.  

However, the feedback at MWC from companies who have tested the WhatsApp business API was mixed. Thus, the current technological state of the solution is probably the main reason why Facebook restricts its availability.  

3) The basic pricing model for WhatsApp business API is in place. It is a session-based model with a premium priced initial message (used for reaching out). That message is followed by a conversation, which is either free or in some cases priced much lower.  

There have been slight shifts in the model itself, but the biggest changes over time are related to the pricing of the initial kick-off message. One of the reasons for it is the price of A2P SMS, which serves as a benchmark. And given WhatsApp’s reach and features, Facebook wants to price it several times higher, but still low enough to attract companies to switch from SMS.  

A2P SMS prices, on the other hand, has a wide range of pricing in different countries, determined by the local mobile network operators. This forces Facebook to create complicated country-specific prices as opposed to simply introducing one global price point and moving on. 

All that said, I strongly believe WhatsApp business API (once it's commercially ready) will be a much needed and much-appreciated addition to the messaging mix on the market today. This conclusion is of course reflected by Messente's own commitment to add WhatsApp to our smart messaging API as soon as it's ready.  

Viber has an advantage 

Viber

Viber launched its API for businesses a few years ago. This means it has gone through many of the learning curves. They have built the partner ecosystem and developed sound business case evaluation processes. 

Viber's willingness to turn all this into actual traffic and grow the traction of their business API was clearly visible at MWC. 

People from Viber were actively meeting with communication and messaging platforms. We discussed different aspects of our co-operation as well as addressed some things they could improve. 

One of the main improvements might be the clarity of rules and guidelines in different markets. Every company wanting to use Viber must still go through a formal process of approval and the verdict has not always been predictable. On the other hand, simplifying this process and making it as transparent as possible seemed to be one of their priorities. 

Regardless of the smaller global reach compared to WhatsApp, being commercially ready as a solution is Viber’s main advantage. 

Google's RCS struggles with global coverage 

Rich Communication Services

Even though its adoption rates and global coverage are still low, there was a lot of talk around RCS at MWC. The reason why network operators love the idea of RCS so much is understandable. If companies everywhere turn to OTT platforms (Viber, WhatsApp, etc.) to look for more features and richer customer experience, the network operators lose a lot of the revenue. 

RCS as a technology potentially offers all the features and maybe even more than any other platform. It does it seamlessly from the native messaging app, is available to all Android users by default, and most importantly, the network operators get a sizeable cut of the revenues (much like in the case of SMS). 

Conclusion 

While there are a lot more topics in the industry, these three have the biggest potential of shaping the mobile communication space. Hopefully, this quick overview gives you an idea of the general developments in mobile messaging.

Drop me a line if you have any questions or comments on the opinions above.

Lauri Kinkar
2019-03-12 00:00:00 UTC
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