Killer Operator Infrastructure an imperative!

2012-02-29 08:39

Tuesday - another great day in Barcelona. Focused on South Africa and the continent as a whole, I had several one on one meetings with various service providers. I am pleased to report that there are amazing innovations coming that will make telecoms and communications across the continent more effective. This will ultimately improve the quality of service and in many instances, the peoples lives as access to education, banking and business spreads.

Kicking off the day, I had a briefing with a Cape Town based organization – Fundamo (which was acquired by Visa in 2011) – a globally recognized leader in the mobile financial services space. Fundamo provides the platform for cellular operator MTN, for its M-Banking offering. This allows MTN subscribers the ability to open a mobile wallet akin to having a bank account attached to your mobile phone number. This has far reaching impact for Africans where MTN has established a firm basehold.

But the big announcement is the fact that there is now the ability through the Fundamo platform, for merchants to accept Visa card payments using mobile phones. This will surely revolutionize the m-banking sector. Imagine the possibility of being able to offer transactional support for all tourists carrying a Visa card? The mind boggles with how this will change the lives of small business owners all over Africa.

An interesting meeting with a company called Syniverse ensued. Syniverse has three core business offerings for operators in Africa; messaging services (SMS, MMS), network services and roaming services. Since I am in Barcelona, roaming is a hot topic I am all too au fait with.

For example, as a Vodacom subscriber, I was told before leaving South Africa I would need to pay a R5,000 deposit to enable roaming on my account. Really? Unless you have a corporate phone and they are footing the bill for you to be contactable 24/7, it’s way too exorbitant. One of the South African attendees (with a corporate account), informed me that at the end of last year he received a bill from his operator of R26,000 after a particularly heavy month of traveling. That’s obscene.

The solution - a local Orange (part of the France Telecom Group) package when I arrived and I have voice and data services in Barcelona for the week.

But, back to Syniverse – their recently completed study shows operators are losing out on a potential global revenue of US$1.2billion from ‘silent roamers’. These ‘silent roamers’ are people like you and I, traveling abroad and not using their mobile phones. In fact the study shows that 50% of roamers are not using voice services and 70% of the total number, are not using data.

IMI Mobile - a provider of mobile solutions for operators, enterprises and media, is an Indian based organization with offices in Johannesburg. Its proposition is an innovative platform that allows operators to market directly to a specific target audience. For example, you own a Coffee shop in Sandton and you wish to offer a special of a bagel and coffee for breakfast, IMI can target selected potential customers in specific regions, between a certain age etc. All this information is selected and integrated from the operators CRM system.

Furthermore, with this ‘intelligence’ they are also able to determine the best method of communication – whether by SMS, MMS, or e-mail.

Vish Alluri the CEO and founder of IMI Mobile sent a clear message to operators, stating “operators need to stop worrying about the next “killer” app and start building killer infrastructure.” When infrastructure is in place and users start enjoy high Quality of Service (QoS) they will start to embrace the space more. This will in turn drive app developers to create killer apps.

The Best for Last – Ice Cream Sandwich

Most interesting of the day was a briefing with Gabe Cohen a product manager for Android. Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is the next edition of Android, developed to enhance consumer experience and attachment to the operating system through a display of power, beauty and emotional connection.

I am also excited to see when the much talked about Google TV 2.0 will become available in South Africa. This will hopefully be soon with LG and Samsung having released models at CES in January this year.

despidió de Barcelona

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