Will Facebook become the next big VoIP provider?

We closed out last year's newsletter series with a discussion about the consumerization of unified communications, and started the year with some predictions about this trend. It looks like Facebook may be now one over the top (OTT) providers we will need to watch as it evolves its voice-centric capabilities. First reported in Canada's Financial Post, Facebook is trialing a Voice over IP (VoIP) service using the Facebook Mobile Messenger app.

Facebook's messenger service has historically offered the capability to send and receive text messages to Facebook friends, and a recent upgrade allows users to also attach a voice recording as part of the mobile messaging service. This feature is available the company's messenger service to users who have a mobile device that runs on Android or iOS.

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The ability to make voice calls between users is so far limited to Canada, and Facebook has not discussed plans to extend its VoIP service outside the trial in Canada. And while the service has some of the same features as Skype (e.g., free "click to call" a friend), the app does not qualify as a full-scale off-net voice calling service. However, we note that Facebook has been very public about its strategy to expand mobile apps and services.

With more than 1 billion users and growing, Facebook has now focused its strategy to be about all the apps and experiences, with mobility playing a key role. Facebook believes that as it provides more value it will be better positioned to grow revenues, whether through developers buying ads, running ads through the Facebook network, using its Payments service, or other alternatives.

The company expects that over the long run, it will see more monetization per time spent on mobile than from the desktop user, and that mobile monetization has to be integrated deeply into Facebook's portfolio. What remains to be seen is if or how it will monetize voice as one of those services.

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