The introduction of WhatsApp’s free voice call service is causing consternation for mobile operators and their main revenue stream – voice. It also presents a viable alternative to Skype.

This is according to Christopher Riley, CEO of The Notebook Company, who says: “The announcement by WhatsApp is certainly going to cause nightmares for Vodacom and the other mobile operators – but it is also certainly good news for users.”

He says it is likely that call costs will come down markedly as mobile operators try and stave off the threat. “This is naturally good for users,” says Riley.

“Additionally, WhatsApp is more user-friendly than Skype, so you also might see some Skype users opting for the voice service offered by WhatsApp. WhatsApp also has a bigger user base than Skype.

“There is a barrier to entry when it comes to Skype as a user as to set up an account. While, in reality, this is not a difficult task, many users may opt for WhatsApp anyway as the voice service automatically links to the user’s existing phone number.

“But the bottom-line is that this new voice service will be a huge thorn in the side of the country’s mobile carriers. If WhatsApp can consistently offer a quality service, there will be some shifts in the market in terms of pricing.”