WeChat Will Remain Free, Tencent Chairman Says
(Beijing) – WeChat will remain free to users, the chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd. says, despite speculation that the country's Big Three telecoms carriers would force it to charge.
Ma Huateng said at an Internet industry conference on May 7 that his company had reached agreements with telecom operators to coordinate WeChat – the popular voice and text messaging service – and traditional mobile services. Ma did not provide details on the agreement, but said WeChat would remain free.
Privately owned Tencent launched WeChat in January 2011 and it now has more than 300 million users. The rapid growth triggered concern among the Big Three, who saw their dominance in traditional messaging eroded.
China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom have complained that WeChat uses a lot of network resources and affects the quality of other services. Media reports since mid-March have said that the behemoths were negotiating with Tencent regarding WeChat's operations.
Ma said cost issues related to telecoms resources would require telecoms operators, equipment makers, service providers and mobile phone manufacturers to cooperate.
Many industry analysts applaud Tencent's performance in the mobile Internet market, but Ma said he had concerns about changes that would occur with the entry of more players.
WeChat has been exploring ways to turn a profit by allowing more third-party businesses to open accounts for marketing and promotion purposes on its platform. Ma expected mobile games to be a major profit source for WeChat, but more efforts would be paid to using the platform to connect online users and offline service providers.
The country's Internet industry is undergoing fast growth as major players seek expansion. In late April, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group announced a partnership with Sina Corp.'s Twitter-like weibo service. Days later, Baidu Inc. said it would pay US$ 370 million for the online video unit of PPStream Inc. in an effort to build the country's largest video site.
Ma said Tencent had no specific target for a partnership, but there were many possibilities, especially in e-commerce.
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