Orange has announced the next phase in the evolution of Libon, the OTT communications service developed by Orange Vallée that  offers VoIP, SMS and voicemail. 

Eden Zoller, Principal Analyst, comments:

Eden Zoller, Principal Analyst At Ovum
Eden Zoller, Principal Analyst At Ovum

“Orange has leveraged its patented OpenChat technology to introduce a new instant messaging (IM) feature to Libon that allows users to IM all their contacts including those with rival messaging services.  All that is required to support a Libon chat session is for contacts to have a mobile phone, tablet or PC with an HTML5 browser.  Libon users send contacts a chat link that the contact opens to commence an IM session. The chat link is locked to the Libon user’s device. The new version of Libon is available now for iOS devices, with an Android version due for release by the end of March. Orange says the new IM feature signals that the next phase of Libon’s development is all about messaging, and going forward it expects to add video capabilities to the mix.  Libon has been in development since 2011, with the first iteration (2012) focused on voicemail while the major innovation in 2013 was on VoIP in the shape of Libon-to-Libon calling, and Libon-out. The introduction of messaging will aim to make the service stickier with the consumer, will complete the communication service and will also help it to grow organically across a large potential subscriber base. Even though Libon’s service offers interoperability across social messaging players and provides a value added VoIP proposition to their users, gaining market share will still remain a challenge in a market inundated with social messaging players with constantly evolving suite of services.

“Libon is available in over 100 countries for iOS and Android devices and its user base is growing , although it is tiny compared to OTT rival WhatsApp that has around 430 million users worldwide. OTT social messaging services are experiencing rapid growth – Ovum’s forecasts show that during 2013 there were a total of 1.2 billion OTT social messaging subscribers generating a total of  27.4 trillion messages. But this growth in OTT social messaging is at the expense of mobile operator offered SMS messaging,  Ovum estimates that mobile operators have lost $32.5 billion from SMS revenue in 2013. Orange argues that the benefits Libon brings to operators can off-set the cannibalisation impact it might have on network based communication services. Libon will also aim to grow revenue through mobile broadband access subscriptions and grow its presence in the OTT communications space.  Orange evidences  the benefits Libon can bring by  pointing  to Sosh, its low cost fixed and mobile brand that includes an international calling plan that incorporates Libon. Orange says Libon has increased Sosh’s in-bound international call traffic by 21%, and increased Average Use Per User (AUPU) by 250 minutes, while use of competing services all declined (from less 10% for Skype to less 79% for Viber) .

“Going forward, Orange is aiming to license Libon to other operators outside of the Orange group that do not have the resources of time to develop their own OTT communications service. Orange says it will be announcing operator partnerships of this kind during 2014. Orange has also announced that it is positioning Libon as the group’s consumer application for all Joyn enabled services across the Orange footprint. Orange plans to launch Joyn across its operations and is currently running Joyn trials in Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Slovakia with more countries to follow in 2014. Libon will replace the ‘Joyn by Orange’ applications available in France and in Spain today.  This step allows Orange to continue with their commitments to the RCS platform as well as grow their foot print in the OTT communications space.”