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The purpose of this blog is for my personal use. It serves as my personal diary as I investigate Chinese internet/gaming companies for investment purpose. If you have any comments or disagreement, please give me feedbacks.

Monday, September 30, 2013

China's Mobile Internet Messaging (IM) War, part 9: YiChat gets VOIP

One can find part 8 of China's Mobile IM war here:

Yesterday, YiChat provided a major update and upgrade from version 1.1.2 to v.1.2. Please see the following articles for details:

Two major functions are added to YiChat. First, YiChat will start Voice Over IP (VOIP) service. In addition, calls from foreign country to China will be free (there could be a time limit however). Since YiChat has a sugar daddy in China Telecom, it will be China Telecom that will supply all the cost for this free service.

The second major function is that when a user uses YiChat and when the other party doesn't have access to internet, YiChat can convert the message to either SMS (if the message is text) or telephone messages (if the message is voice).

None of these two functions will grow the users by a lot in the short term. But both are very significant.

It is nice to have a sugar daddy, especially a sugar daddy who is a monopoly. Skyp had been trying to get into China for a long time now. In addition, all of China's private companies had known that VOIP is an incredibly lucrative business to get into.

But Chinese government won't allow any private, be it foreign or domestic, to get into this area because of the objection of its three state owned telecom operators, China Mobile (CHL), China Unicom (CHU), and China Telecom (CHA).

But now, Netease is able to get into this area through its cooperation with China Telecom. This is potentially a lot bigger than China's Mobile IM. If China truly allows VOIP, it could completely overtake all of China's telecommunication industry, considering the horrible reputation of the three state own companies among ordinary Chinese.

At this point, VOIP is not fully allowed yet. But China is allowing a crack, and only for the telecoms and Netease.

I am certain at this point, companies like Tencent, Alibaba, Sina, Sohu, are drooling with envy with Netease's great luck.

The second major feature is very important in YiChat's competition with Tencent's WeChat. Almost all of the analysis in China are on whether YiChat can replace WeChat. Well, I think the possibility of that is zero. If somebody comes up with a product that basically does what Facebook does. Even if that product is superior to that of Facebook. The possibility of that product to replace Facebook is basically zero.

I guess YiChat could be to WeChat for what Google+ is to Facebook. It could become a 2nd place player in China's Mobile Internet Messaging market. But I think YiChat can be much more than that.

Here in the US, we have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest, etc. Any one person can have more than one social circle. Similarly in China, the top 3 are QQ, Weibo, and WeChat. But there is definitely more room for more.

But there are a basic limitation for the top 3 social media products. They are limited by that both side have to have internet access at the same time. This is where there is a niche for YiChat to thrive.

Because YiChat has the support of China Telecom, it provides its users free access to home phone and SMS (Short Messaging Service). Its true advantage that nobody else have is it allows its users  free access to 3 networks (internet, home phone, and SMS). This second feature is the start of Netease's attempt to start to integrate the three networks together. If China truly allows Netease to have full VOIP service, YiChat can combine that and we will have four networks integrated into one.


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