French telecommunications company Orange today announced a partnership with Facebook to offer a social calling application that will allow users to call each other via mobile or desktop.
The service, called “Party Call,” is set to launch in France in summer 2013. Although Orange is building on Facebook APIs that are available to any developer, the company has an official partnership with the social network, which could help it in marketing the service. This could also be the start to future collaboration that leads to more integrated services, similar to how Facebook works with Skype.
The social network is in a position to connect people through a single identity rather than through phone numbers, of which people can have multiple (work, home and cell) and that can change when a person moves or makes other changes in their life. Plus, there are costs and other frustrations associated with cellular plans that can be reduced by voice over IP solutions that build on Facebook’s identity layer and social graph.
Facebook has a partnership with Skype to provide video calling on Facebook.com. Users can also connect Skype and the social network to begin video calls and send chat messages from Skype’s desktop client to Facebook. Although Skype said in 2011 that a mobile calling app would become available, and code in Facebook’s standalone Messenger app revealed hints about video chat, the product never materialized. The Skype-Facebook integration seems to be limited to desktop. If Orange can get the mobile experience right, it may be something that Facebook would want built into its own apps.
“By connecting its Party Call service to Facebook, Orange will be able to offer customers a truly personal experience. It is a great example of how companies can use Facebook’s open developer platform to make their products social. We are really happy that Facebook is transforming telecoms just as it has gaming, music, video and numerous other online services,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that originally appeared on TechCrunch.
It is unclear whether Facebook is already or would begin reaching out to carriers about providing mobile voice services for all its users, or if the Orange deal is a standalone effort initiated by the telecom company.
T-Mobile offers a service in the U.S. that is similar to what Orange is working on, but as TechCrunch points out, it was temporarily suspended last year because of design issues that made it unclear that the app was not created by Facebook. T-Mobile’s Bobsled is still available but it hasn’t exactly taken off. The app peaked at 530,000 Facebook-connected monthly users in April, according to our AppData tracking service. Now it’s down to 270,000 monthly active users.