Got an iPhone or an Android phone? Your Facebook account just got more useful –you can make free phone calls now using its Messenger app that lets you make voice calls to anyone on the friend list.
These are just like Skype calls – free once you subscribe to a data (Internet) plan with a telecom service provider. Given the popularity of the social networking site, Facebook friend lists are like readymade contact books.
Though Facebook has not made any big-bang announcement, it has made a quiet upgrade to its Messenger app that now carries a small “Free Call” button in the app that is now available for smartphones based on the Android or iOS platforms.
The company had introduced this service in US and Canada, almost a year ago and is now available in India. Facebook officials in India were not available for their comments on the issue.
The term "free call" is a bit of a misnomer as users do pay Internet (data) charges, but increasingly popular Facebook calls could mean that India’s estimated 160 million smartphone users may cut back on bills in which they pay for each call as they use up monthly data plans. Facebook currently has about 95 million users in India.
Messenger apps will likely be eating into the revenues that telecom service companies get from text messages or voice calls.
"This kind of service (voice service using data plans) has been in existence. Yesterday it was Skype, today it is Facebook. Tomorrow it could be someone else,” said Rajan Mathews, director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that groups GSM telephony companies.
“It is the march of technology. We will incur a marginal loss of revenue. We are examining the full impact. But we are not out of the revenue stream since users will have to use data plans," he added.
Desktop users will not have access to voice calls from Facebook accounts.