Telegram has accumulated more than 700 million monthly active users and is introducing a premium tier with additional features as the instant messaging platform tries to monetize some of its large user base. The company has not disclosed how much it will charge for the premium tier, but the monthly plan appears to be priced in the $5 to $6 range.
The premium tier adds a range of additional and enhanced features to the messaging app, which reached more than 500 million monthly active users in January 2021. Telegram Premium allows users to send files up to 4 GB (from 2 GB) and supports faster downloads, for example, Telegram said.
Paying customers can also follow up to 1,000 channels, from 500 offered to free users, and create up to 20 chat folders with as many as 200 chats each. Telegram Premium users can also add up to four accounts to the app and pin up to 10 chats.
The move is the Dubai-based company’s attempt to keep its development “driven primarily by its users, not advertisers,” it said. It is also the first time that an instant messaging app with hundreds of millions of users has rolled out a premium tier. Signal, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple’s Messages and Google’s Messages, some of Telegram’s biggest rivals, do not offer a premium tier.
Some analysts had previously hoped that Telegram could monetize the platform through its blockchain token project. But after several delays and regulatory issues, Telegram said in 2020 that it had exited the project and offered to repay $1.2 billion it raised from investors.
In March 2021, Telegram raised more than $1 billion from a number of investors, including Mubadala and Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, by selling pre-IPO 5-year convertible bonds.
“Today is an important day in Telegram’s history — not only another milestone, but also the beginning of Telegram’s sustainable earnings,” the company said in a blog post on Sunday.
Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov said earlier this month that the launch of a premium tier was intended to meet user demand for additional storage/bandwidth.
“After thinking about it for a while, we realized that the only way to let our most demanding fans get more while keeping our existing features free is to turn those increased limits into a paid option,” he said.
In India, the premium version costs $6 for iPhone users. Alex Barredo, a Spain-based technology commentator, reported seeing $5.49 ($5.77) as a monthly fee. A Telegram spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Premium users also have the option to convert voice messages into texts, access exclusive stickers and comments, and use animated images as profile pictures. Paying customers can also avoid ads in the app. (In some markets, sponsored posts appear in large, public one-to-many channels.)
Durov has promised to keep some core features in the app free to users and also continue to build new features for the non-paying public.
On Sunday, the company said it was rolling out a feature called Join Requests to allow all users to join a public group without the need for an invite link. Another new feature aimed at free users allows verified groups and channels to display their badge at the top of the chat. The new update also supports animation rendering at 120 frames per second for new iPads and iPhones.
“This update includes more than 100 fixes and optimizations for the mobile and desktop apps — eliminating bugs, improving speed, and expanding minor features,” Telegram said.
In a note to customers in May of this year, analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein reported that Telegram was “becoming more and more competitive” with its features. “While WhatsApp and Messenger still make up the majority of messaging app downloads in our selected group, Telegram has taken a significant share of both apps, especially Messenger,” they wrote.