Telefónica takes on OTT players with new 'TU Me' messaging app

Clearly deciding that if you can't beat them, it's best to compete with them, Telefónica has launched its own smartphone instant messaging app that will rival the likes of WhatsApp and Viber.

TU Me is now available for O2 iPhone customers.

The Spanish operator's innovation unit, Telefónica Digital, has developed the TU Me app for customers on any network in an attempt to win back customers by allowing them to send free voice and text messages, photos, video and their locations to friends using the same app. TU Me is now available for the Apple iPhone and an Android release is not far behind.

The free instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp have been a thorn in the side of mobile operators as they have been blamed for the decline in revenue from text messages. Indeed, according to a Financial Times report, analysts estimate that they have attracted tens of millions of users and cost operators billions of dollars in lost revenue.

They have also had other more far-reaching effects, as demonstrated by the Netherlands, where operator efforts to charge extra for IM apps started the process toward the eventual introduction of net neutrality in the country.

The FT further pointed out that T-Mobile USA launched its own Android app offering free calls and texts, Bobsled, last year. The app has now attracted more than 1 million users around the world--and 95 percent of these users are not T-Mobile subscribers.

One analyst poured some cold water on the news, noting that operators have taken their time to react to the threat of mobile Skype, WhatsApp and Apple's iMessage services. "They got caught unawares about how quickly the app market for voice over IP and instant messaging would develop," Pamela Clark-Dickson, analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, told the FT.

For more:
- see this FT article (reg. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Daily Telegraph article

Related articles:
Is the SMS stronghold being crumbled by slick upstarts?
Telecom Italia CEO highlights 'burdens' created by OTT players
Study: Video streaming to help drive 15-fold growth in German data traffic
Study: Smartphone usage becoming obsessive, can cause anxiety