WhatsApp calling has started. But only for some users. How will operators react?

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

whatsapp-callingSo WhatsApp calling has finally arrived. So far however, it’s only showing up for some Android users who have the latest update of the WhatsApp application. “Latest” in this case means so new it’s not available in the Play Store yet. It has to be downloaded off the WhatsApp website here (Version 2.11.508 is the latest).

The new voice calling feature was first revealed on Reddit yesterday by a WhatsApp user in India. To have the calling activated, one has to be called first by someone who already has it activated on their app.

WhatsApp voice calling will likely further agonise mobile telecoms operators who are already reeling from the assault of the WhatsApp text messages. Whether voice calling is as effective as the text as a communication alternative, is however not clear because good quality voice calls also depend on good quality 3G or WiFi for those lucky enough to have access to it.

Another factor making voice calling more complicated that simple text messaging is it will also likely heavily depend on the capability of the device, which may explain why WhatsApp moved to ban users that were accessing the service via Java feature phones.

A lot of operators in developing countries had started offering separate access to WhatsApp use on a flat monthly bundle price. Depending on the ‘success’ of the WhatsAp voice calling in reducing the regular operator’s voice service, this development may see them either withdraw the WhatsApp bundles or just review the price upwards. And even if the price is reviewed upwards, subscribers with access to good mobile broadband may still find this cheaper than per second billing of voice calls offered by many operators right now.

Voice calling via an app, by the way, is not a new thing. Viber, Skype and other have been doing it for years. What makes WhatsApp a big deal is that ‘everyone is on WhatsApp’, and such a network effect is a game changer for apps depending on connecting users to each other.



  1. fourwallsinaroom

    A couple of quick questions
    1. Have you managed to test this exclusively with the app bundles for Telecel, Africom and Econet? i.e. test with no data or airtime available? Am curious if it will work right of the bat in this manner or if new server exceptions will be required. The later would be convenient for the networks to offer an “app voice” bundle
    2. You noted that it is only activated when someone who is activated calls you? How do we get an invite for a call!
    3. If you have used the service via 3G how does this compare to Facebook calling? Are there any indications that App to Facebook and vice versa will be next?

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      1. Not tested yet. Don’t have it on my phone
      2. As far as we can tell, that is the invite process – getting called by someone that has it activated
      3. n/a. Would be very interesting

  2. fourwallsinaroom

    “To have the calling activated, one has to be called first by someone who already has it activated on their app.” – I have the call feature for all my contacts but I am getting a network un available message. Any tips?

    1. tunetune

      i think probably because they do not have the updated version that allows calling
      .can i give you my number so you can call to activate mine.

      1. fourwallsinaroom

        sure send me an email on fourwallsinaroom@gmail.com with your number.

        1. tunetune

          just sent the email

        2. fourwallsinaroom

          still getting a network not available. thus far i have not been able to make a call. what errors are others getting?

          1. Ini

            How did you get your call option? Did you receive a call as well? If so how was the quality? If not, how did you get the option again?

        3. Hiten Padiya

          My Number : +919979740710 pls active this.

          1. Marampelli Rajesham

            My mobile Number 9866303073 pl Activete

  3. tinm@n

    I have to say that I’m happy its biting them in their backsides!

    Their lack of neutrality and persistence to profit over margins instead of user volumes is really very greedy (pointing at you Econet)

    They are absolutely capable of bringing down voice & data charges and still make good profit, but their model is to extract as much profit as they can whilst they have the upper hand.

    They are also not supporting local content providers, preferring to zero-rate ONLY external services…yet they lose nothing by doing the same for the fledgling locally-served content.

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      I remember ZINX (Zimbabwe Internet Exchange) used to have a meet me room where traffic between ISP’s was not throttled. The good days when I could link up to a server on Yo!Africa from my ZOL ADSL and pull data as fast as the line would allow without it eating into my 2GB peak allowance. Yes those were the days. Gone with my ZOL ADSL is my trusty public IP as well. That said you are so right Econet could offer a bit more carrots here and there. For instance I could not understand why the webmail service provided by econet is not zero rated. I asked on twitter about this just the other day. No substantive response. More so the Zero Rated sites are suffering a half baked implementation. Can not use the Wikipedia app for instance. Wikipedia itself redirects to some pages that are not zero rated even though they are in the *.wikipedia.org domain. Wikihow is a hit or miss works some days not all. no more pictures on wikipedia either. They really could focus on dangling better carrots for a higher adoptation which in turn could lead to higher revenues.

  4. tinashe

    just downloaded it but im scrared coz those whatsapp guys are way aheard.you might be blocked just like the watsapp plus did

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      I am not a lawyer but http://www.whatsapp.com/legal/
      1. There is no term that says thou shall not download the latest version from our website
      2. There is no term that says thou shall not try whats up voice calling

      So I am not afraid. Then again I used two app numbers so sacrificing one in the long run is not a train smash.

      1. tinashe

        nice,installed on mine but cant find the option to call.is yours active

        1. fourwallsinaroom

          I have not been able to place a single successful call. I have the call option but I keep getting network errors. I am trying to figure out what the issue is. maybe i am not able to because of locale i am not sure.

  5. fourwallsinaroom

    By the way two things!
    1. You know that you can get a Whatsapp number for any country in the world as long as you know someone in that country right?
    2. You can if you are patient and savvy enough use a google voice number for whatsapp. If you have google apps, a proxy service in the US, a domain you can create as many google voice numbers as you want and test new features. if a number gets blocked no problem move onto the next.
    for instance

    the users on the above service would be


    each with a unique number from google voice. if you manage to get banned 10 times, you are doing something very very wrong and should probably stop. I dont think testing calling feature is enough to warrant an offence.

  6. kevin Makoni

    any obstacles to using it on i Phone , seeing as it maybe android biased ?

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      Is your question on google voice or whatsapp voice. If its the later you have answered yourself. if its the former, i do not, have not and will not ever own an iPhone so I can not say.

    2. Terry

      its available on iphone with IOS 8 update

  7. Dube

    Any Lucky guys? using Africom/Econet or Telecel?

    1. fourwallsinaroom

      Have the tab for calling. No luck calling at all. have tried every single number possible.

  8. Ezra

    Hahahahaha with whatsapp bundles you could barely download a picture, you think you can manage a voice call? Even using skype on mobile is a nightmare with our MNOs, so this changes nothing we will not benefit from whatsapp voice calls

  9. blaz

    Well since Zimbabwe only has two mobile network provider Econet and Telecel…(NetOne is still in stone-age) They probably wont allow their bundles to call.For One reason “Greed”…So you can download the App if you want but i bet making a phone call would be cheap that if they even allow the App to call …

    1. adrian

      i use netone and i wonder what im missing by not using the other two can you help me….ndisasara kustone age

  10. whatsapp

    has anyone out there managed to install and sucessfully activate the whatsapp voice service?

  11. TendyT

    Its not working

  12. TendyT

    Its not working

  13. mwana wevhu

    Even if i got the latest version of whatsapp and activated the call function, the MNO’s still reserve the right to block that particular function from working by just recognising the type of traffic and poof. Blackberry users would know, they have features on their phones that will not work in this country.
    Besides, the MNO’s would not lose much from revenue since if allowed they would charge for the data generated by making and receiving the call. Look into that, it would require data to be spent on both ends of the call so how would the MNO’s just allow that to happen without some form of billing, either on one end or on both ends of the call.

  14. Terry

    Installed the app but there s no icon for calling

  15. notley

    installed but no app calling zvakadhakwa izvi

  16. Ronald

    to me I download it but if im trying to call its saying insufficient balance


    I get latest version of WhatsApp FROM WHATSAPP.COM,& upgrade it to the latest version. THEN Invite ME FROM MY friend who has already got this feature activated on its WhatsApp.