Fetion: China Mobile Launch Free Mobile IM

China Mobile has launched its own IM service, Fetion. It offers PC and mobile phone messaging at zero charge, even from mobiles, with just the GPRS data charges being paid for. Users will be able to IM between mobiles running the service; PC to PC and PC to mobile. Currently there’s no monthly charge, although they haven’t ruled out of possibility of it.

It will be interesting to see how this currently free service impacts SMS revenues.

A trial of the service has been running for 11-months, which they called Femoo at that point. During that time they picked up an astounding 20.68 million users from their 320 million mobile subscribers.

Fetion will come pre-installed on new China Mobile handsets and the software will be downloadable online (PC, Mobile), so account holds should increase substantially.

The rest of the market
Traveling around Beijing, it’s clear that Microsoft are spending big on advertising to try and achieve a significant position here with their IM products.

With China Mobile’s wide grasp – especially on the younger residents (prime IM users) – it’s thought that they’ll have a battle on their hands. China Daily has quoted the subscriber levels for mobile MSN IM at a tiny 300,000, well below the other IM competitor QQ, by Tencent, who are thought to have 7 million mobile users. Over all, MSN has 9.5m IM users in China, with QQ dwarfing them with 140m users.

Given the huge 320m subscriber dominance of China Mobile, Tencent’s QQ service could be placed under considerable pressure.

I’m in Beijing for the Broadband World Forum, so thought it would be interesting to pick stories from the local press on their reporting of technology news.