Speaking at the annual Highway Africa conference as part of “the Great Debate” on Mobile and Convergence, MTN Group Chief Commercial Officer, Christian de Faria, said MTN was moving towards ICT to develop and drive mobile data, deploy convergent services and lever its own fixed infrastructure.
De Faria said mobile driven ICT was the future. “Mobile operators would either leverage local landline players or build their own fixed networks to deliver ICT services.”
He said it was imperative that mobile operators develop ICT capability to enable themselves to drive mobile data or convergence services, as well as to lever fibre backbones in countries with poor fixed networks.
With the world’s economies in the midst of a second wave of ‘mobile wars’, on the back of a battle for the pocket (walkman to music phones), another bruising battle is currently underway. The battle for convergence (from banking hall etc to mobile phone) is currently underway. The casualty of this shift has been, among other, declining voice revenues, as data usage increases.
De Faria has pointed to a number of key priorities for MTN, to take advantage of this fast changing pattern in mobile usage. “Smartphone distribution challenges and poor banking infrastructure in some of our markets present opportunities. We have already taken advantage of this through MobileMoney, a novel payment gateway that is facilitating financial transactions in over in 12 of our markets. At 30 June 2011, there were 5.1 million registered MobileMoney subscribers, with Uganda and Ghana, each accounting for 37% of the total.
De Faria also stressed that partnerships with distribution companies and manufacturers remain a priority, and are currently proving successful. “We are continually seeking ways to couple device with leading technologies to improve customer’s Internet experience. However, it’s important that the convergence we talk about is driven by innovation. I must also add that such innovations have to be underpinned by disruptive innovation models, to produce products and services that relevant and add value to the lives of our communities,” said De Faria.
In recent months, MTN has entered into several value add partnerships. To provide the best internet experience available, MTN will soon offer a fuller and faster mobile Web experience to its 152.3 million mobile subscribers across Africa and the Middle East. Last month, MTN signed a global agreement with Norway’s Opera Software to boost mobile Internet services across the two regions by offering a special co-branded version of Opera Mini, the world’s most popular mobile Web browser.
Subsequent to this announcement, MTN issued a challenge to the developer community from around the world to come forward with innovative apps which are inspired by the realities of Africa and the Middle East.