Brazil’s mobile telecommunications space has been fertile ground for over-the-top (OTT) messaging services. Following Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp, the messaging app company divulged that 8% of its user base—38 million people—is in Brazil. Viber, another popular OTT service, counted 12 million users in the country in February 2014.
Though not necessarily the favorite means of communicating over mobile—only 29% of mobile phone users in Brazil preferred OTT messaging services over SMS or regular voice calls in May 2013, according to an Ericsson study—WhatsApp’s user base alone claims over 55% of Brazil’s mobile phone internet users, based on eMarketer calculations. Ericsson found that cost concerns were the biggest usage driver, cited by 56% of respondents.
When looking at the wider pool of mobile phone users, only 28% used OTT messaging on such a device, likely a reflection of the still-high incidence of feature phones among consumers in Brazil, for which OTT messaging apps are generally not available. At 71% of respondents, the share of OTT mobile messaging users was much higher among smartphone users.
OTT messaging was significantly more popular among mobile phone users on pay-per-use, or prepaid, data plans, at 39%. This likely correlates with the more cost-conscious nature of prepaid mobile phone users, who turn to the carrier-independent OTT services to avoid extra data or SMS charges. These users are also likely to engage in much of their online chatting while connected to Wi-Fi networks.
Postpaid account holders with data-capped plans were more conservative in their data usage, as only 21% used OTT mobile messaging. This conservatism likely stems from the fact that postpaid surcharges are usually calculated at rates much higher than those at which the plan is contracted.
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