Can Telefónica halt the OTT smash and grab with “TU Me”?

European telecoms giant Telefónica has released its own VoIP-based communication app, in a direct challenge to the popular OTT services that have usurped billions of dollars of operators’ revenue over the last year.

European operators have been feeling the pinch from services like Skype and WhatsApp, and companies including Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom and Vodfone have been making noises about introducing their own rich communications services; leveraging their infrastructure and deep historical relationship with users to claw back control.  

Telefónica ‘s new free app, called TU Me, is currently only available to iPhone users, with an Android version promised soon, and allows users to exchange text messages, make calls, leave voice messages, share photos and location information. Interactions are stored in a timeline format, making it easy to view, scroll through and keep a history of conversations.

“We’ve seen the growing popularity of communications apps on smartphones but we believe we’ve gone one better with TU Me using our knowledge and insights of how people use their devices,” said Stephen Shurrock, Chief Commercial Officer at Telefónica Digital.

“TU Me puts all your communications needs into one place, for free, and is a great way for people to stay in touch with those close to them. It’s also a testament to the innovation, speed and agility within Telefónica Digital.”

Users can view their communication history in a timeline format; with the information available over the internet. “It is the only app of its kind that stores your content in the Cloud so that it is always available whenever you log into the app, even if you lose your device,” said the company. “It is also the only app that lets you make calls, send voice messages, instant messages, photos and location from one control within one screen, with no need to switch apps or tabs.”

The app is the first service from Telefónica Digital to launch directly to consumers and the first time the operator has launched a product worldwide, regardless of its operating markets.

“We certainly see ways to monetize this app with a business model along the lines of Skype,” Shurrock told Bloomberg, declining to say how much revenue it could generate or how many customers it might attract this year.

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