FreedomPop launches zero-rated WhatsApp in UK

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

MVNO will offer WhatsApp for free, including data charges, for customers who take up its new tariff

MVNO FreedomPop has become the first UK provider to offer zero-rating on OTT messaging service WhatsApp, it announced today.

FreedomPop launched in the UK last year running on Three’s network and offering SIM-cards, including texts, minutes and data, for free. It relies on a freemium model in which subscribers pay for additional content or services.

It will now offer its 100,000 UK customers unlimited usage of WhatsApp in the UK and 30 countries across Europe and Southeast Asia without using their data allowance, as part of a new SIM package. It recently received a $50 million investment from LetterOne.

The WhatsApp SIM also comes with 200MBs of data and 100 voice minutes, but does not include traditional texts. Instead, subscribers will need to download the FreedomPop app which gives 200 traditional texts free each month.

According to figures from research company Ovum, the decline of traditional text messages in favour of OTT services like WhatsApp cost mobile operators $54 billion in 2016.

“There really is no reason anyone should have to pay for voice and text in today’s environment. Over-the-top communication services like WhatsApp have eliminated the need for traditional voice and text services that carriers still force U.K. users to pay hundreds of quid a year for,” said Chris Chen, FreedomPop SVP of Consumer Experience. 

“WhatsApp usage in the U.K. is soaring and mobile companies see it as a massive threat to take away from their voice and text revenues. Now FreedomPop is making WhatsApp more accessible than ever to U.K. consumers.”

The introduction of zero-rated WhatsApp services follows similar launches in Spain (July 12) and the US (August 17), but could contravene net neutrality guidelines published by the European Union earlier this week.

On August 30, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) released guidance that said although zero-rating is not banned per se, it needs to be justified. It remains to be seen if FreedomPop’s package will fall foul of the guidelines.