Orange Finds Its Web Services Voice
Orange (NYSE: FTE) has thrown its hat into the Web services app ring with a downloadable unified communications app for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iOS that clearly signals its intention to take on the likes of Skype Ltd. and show that Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) is not the only major European operator with a next-generation services attitude. (See Telefónica: Digital Dreamer?)
The French giant, along with all other telcos, knows it needs to develop new offerings, including Web services capabilities, in order to remain relevant to its customers in the future. The operator has a decade of experience with video services and has been developing its cloud services for several years: Now it has unveiled 'Libon,' the kind of application that goes head-to-head with its over-the-top (OTT) service challengers (and which will ultimately cannibalize its traditional voice revenues).
The app has been launched for iOS in 95 countries and will be ready for Android early next year. It is free for anyone to download, no matter which mobile network they are on. It enables users to make free high-definition voice calls and send instant messages to other Libon users over mobile or Wi-Fi connections, as well as set up three personalized visual voicemails that can be set to respond to certain individuals or contact groups. In addition, voicemails can be updated with the user's most recent Twitter of Facebook status messages (converted into a voicemail using a text-to-speech tool -- that could be interesting…).
All contacts and summaries of recent conversations, instant messages, call logs and voicemails are stored remotely online (or "in the cloud" if you prefer). This short video summarizes the app's capabilities.
All that is free. But then there's a "Premium" version that comes with a tariff: Users who pay extra get unlimited customized greetings, full-length transcription of all voicemail messages, unlimited storage, email copies of all voicemails and an hour of international voice calls each month to non-Libon users on landlines or mobile numbers in 31 countries.
As well as developing an Android version, Orange also plans to expand Libon's capabilities to make it compatible with RCS (rich communication suite) specifications, which will enable group chat, file transfer and in-call content sharing capabilities. The carrier is very clear about its support for the RCS, which the GSM Association (GSMA) is pushing using the Joyn brand and which has already been backed with commercial services by other European mobile giants. (See Operators Joyn Forces for RCS Services, Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat and Vodafone Joyns Fight Against OTT Threat .)
"Orange is convinced that RCS standard embedded in the handsets and in downloadable applications is a key factor for the rapid expansion of this standard built under GSMA supervision," notes the operator in its launch press release.
This move is clearly part of Orange's efforts to retain and deepen its services relationship with its customers, help stem churn and even attract new users. It'll be interesting to see if revenues attributed to the Premium version ever show up in the carrier's quarterly earnings presentations.
The launch of Libon comes six months after Telefónica launched a very similar app, Tu Me, which, according to the Spanish operator, had 600,000 active users globally within three months of launch. (See Telefónica Digital Gets Smart and Et Tu, Telefónica?)
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading