Viber, the chat and messaging app acquired by Japanese ecommerce titan Rakuten for $900 million five years ago, is introducing a new subscription service that lets users pay to have a local phone number that anyone can call. From a report: Founded in 2010, Viber has grown to claim more than 1 billion “registered users” globally, though the company doesn’t reveal how many of those are active on the platform. As with similar messaging apps such as WhatsApp, users sign up to Viber using their own mobile phone number, which allows them to easily connect with other friends and contacts who have joined Viber. With Viber Local Number, which has been in closed beta until now, users can pay $4.99 per month to access a local telephone number for anyone outside of Viber to call or text (SMS).
For the caller, it costs whatever their network rates are for calling a local number, while the Viber user doesn’t pay anything extra beyond their monthly subscription. There are caveats with the service for now, though: Viber users can’t call out using their local number, and they can’t respond to text messages using their local number. So if someone messages you on your special Viber number asking a question, you won’t be able to respond. The company told VentureBeat that it plans to make the number function bidirectionally in the future.