Report: Chinese users will drop WeChat if no longer free

In a poll, 90 percent of Chinese users said they would abandon WeChat if it was no longer a free service, following news the government will mandate a fee on the mobile messaging app.
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor

Citing an anonymous top official from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Securities Market Weekly reported on Thursday there was little doubt WeChat will indeed begin charging users for its service, but details on how much the charges will be are still being discussed.

MIIT has been monitoring WeChat in recent weeks. On March 31, Miao Wei, head of MIIT, said the ministry was looking into the possibility of having users pay for WeChat and had asked the operators to submit a service plan. Miao added the regulator would consider the impact on users and would prevent the fees from being too high.

At the same time, 90 percent of netizens polled by Xinhua Net on Friday said they would stopped using WeChat if the mobile messaging app was no longer free, according to a Sina News report. The WeChat users said they would be charged twice since they already would have paid for traffic usage. Alternative free apps including Weibo and Mi Chat in China have similar functions and are good substitutions.

Offering similar functions to popular free messaging app WhatsApp, WeChat is operated by Tencent which offers various functions including voice recording, text, facial expressions, pictures, video, location, as well as video chat. There are currently  over 300 million WeChat users worldwide. 

Major Chinese telecom carriers including China Mobile and China Unicom have been protesting in recent months as the popularity of WeChat has severely eroded their SMS, MMS, and voice calls revenue. These telecom carriers also declare that the vast usages of WeChat have consumed too much bandwidth resources which place huge pressures on their networks.

However, on April 2, a spokesman from Tencent said the company "definitely will not charge end-users basic services", which seemed like the Chinese technology giant will probably take up the responsibility of paying service fees to the telecom giants.

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