Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
India’s telecom industry is getting a big shakeup today after messaging service Nimbuzz introduced cheap international calling for domestic users, becoming the first Web-based calling service to take advantage of a relaxing in telecom legislation last year.
Nimbuzz is allowing users based in India — where it has a registered user base of 25 million — to buy credit to make Skype-like overseas calls to any number for the first time. International calls made via the service will be charged upwards of a flat-rate of 0.60 INR ($0.01) per minute, which is a huge saving on the regular cost: local carriers typically charge around 6.4 INR ($0.10) per minute to call the US, 10 INR ($0.16) per minute to call Canada and 14 INR ($0.23) per minute to call the UK.
Vikas Saxena, CEO of Nimbuzz, tells TNW that the aim is to “disrupt” India’s international calling business. He estimates that the industry in India is worth a cool $1.5 billion.
“India has globalized in terms of family, friends and businesses, but our telecom has not matched it,” he says, explaining that he himself has more cousins and family who are based overseas than in India — and that is not uncommon for many Indians.
“If I have to call my cousin or others who are based in India I don’t think twice because it is so cheap, but overseas is more expensive: in the last 10 years India has globalized like never before,” he adds.
Vikas Saxena quotes “Basic communication should be free, users should only pay for what they want to use” pic.twitter.com/W7LQJphTnJ
— nimbuzz (@nimbuzz) October 22, 2013
Nimbuzz has partnered with ISP Spectranet, which Saxena says is the exclusive distributor of international calling credit “for now,” and will begin offering credit today, as well as retail vouchers and deals for corporate customers.
Saxena is reluctant to give a specific figure or target for the international calling feature, but his excitement at the prospect of making it more convenient for Indians to communicate worldwide is evident from talking to him.
“Paid VoIP calling is huge outside of India, but India has not participated in this boom despite the fact that everything is already here,” he says. “Around 40 percent of Nimbuzz users in India use Wi-Fi, and for higher-end devices that figure goes up to 80 percent: India is no longer Wi-Fi deficient for those with smartphones or international friends and family.”
Nimbuzz users in India can find full details about international calling on the Spectranet hello ip website. Saxena anticipates that others will follow suit “once the dam is breached,” although he doesn’t believe that telcos can lower their prices to compete at the same price points due to excessive cost structures.
Headline image via Melanie Vollmert / Shutterstock
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