Popular messaging service WhatsApp said it will offer free voice calling for its 465 million worldwide users. It said the new service could go live as early as April. 

Earlier this month, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion.

The new free voice service would decrease the need for people to use long distance phone companies. 

The announcement was made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

The new service is expected to be available for iPhone and Android users first, then some BlackBerry and Nokia phones later. 

It follows an earlier announcement by messaging service rival Viber to offer free voice calls. The WhatsApp voice calls will allow it to compete globally with South Korea’s Line and China’s WeChat which already allow this type of service.

The Financial Times did a report and said the rise of free voice calls is expected to erase $386 billion in revenues from mobile operators by 2018. 

Tech savvy blogger Chris Gibbons said: “It is bound to impact long distance companies. Our family uses Skype for probably 95 per cent of our overseas calls as it is and, if           WhatsApp makes that just as easy and free, then that’s clearly going to be a game changer. 

“I think the long-distance phone companies could be facing something similar to the newspaper industry. They will be around for a while yet, but their customer base will continue to shrink. 

“Just ask yourself, how many people under 25 do you know buy a newspaper regularly or make traditional long-distance calls anymore? 

“My kids are 13 and 11 and they already talk to the world by Skype and FaceTime. Picking up a landline phone to call someone, even in Bermuda, let alone overseas, is a last resort.”

The Bermuda Sun asked island residents who already use WhatsApp how it might affect their long-distance calls.

Cathi McClure said: “I don’t think it will really affect me much, as there is Skype, Google and Viber that you can do this on. The only place where I need a change is mobile to landline calls.”

Rich Lathan is another WhatsApp user who already relies on other programmes to do his long distance telecommunicating.

He said: “We usually use Skype for long distance, but this would be an interesting option.”

Mr Lathan added: “It is really cool when my 91-year-old mother-in-law can see and talk to her daughter and grandson at no cost.”

Wayne Burgess said using WhatsApp is “easy to communicate with the boys and family” and he would “absolutely” use this as an option and the announcement of free voice calls was “good news”.

Cheryl Packwood is another WhatsApp user who does have a long-distance carrier but uses a variety of programmes to talk to other people.

“I already Facetime with my boys. One of them has figured how to call me without video on Facebook. Basically, I can now call for free on different apps according to which app my friends have.”