There’s a growing reappearance of value added services (VAS) on the local mobile networks. Entrepreneurs are seeing this and you can see the increasing number of adverts in the local press like the current itllusion mobiplay one which reads:
itllusion is giving away 300 cellphones!
SMS the word “mobiplay” to 31110 to get exciting and hidden facts about your mobile phone and stand a chance to win one of 300 Nokia 1202 cellphones!
Premium Rates Apply, SMS cost US$0.50.
The G-Telecoms sponsored World Cup campaign last year is another example; to win a vehicle, subscribers where required to predict match outcomes. Another is the increasing number of TV and radio programs that ask listeners to send SMS messages to vote or request songs at premium rates.
Subscribers are increasingly expecting more than just voice and basic person to person SMS from their mobile phones. Most subscribers are now able to browse the Internet on their ‘smart’ mobile devices, and operators are introducing services that let you send email, do instant messaging and Facebook even on basic mobile phones that do not have internet features.
Subscribers now expect their phone to be a banking device, an internet device, a music device, a reading device and more. They also increasingly require some form of interaction and personalization of their mobile devices. If your bank is on your phone, that phone becomes more personal than it was. The music, the tones, photos, SMSs on it are all personal and any services that promote this idea are welcomed by the subscriber.
So far the trend is to use VAS like the above itllusion example; i.e. for contests and draws where the VAS provider banks on enough subscribers entering the competition. With enough subscribers taking up the services they can cover the cost of the prizes, promotions of the campaign and the percentage of the premium SMS rate that’s retained by the operator.
Lately, mobile banking, itself a value-added service has been introduced on two networks; Telecel and NetOne. Mobile Commerce is set to rise as a result, especially because the country’s payment systems have long been lacking in convenience. The general skepticism about the lack of security and the discomfort with the idea of paying through a mobile phone will probably cause a slow growth but will surely wear away as the payment method matures.
Beyond premium SMS contests, there’s great opportunity for diverse value added services. Innovative solutions that bring basic convenience to subscribers. People buy convenience. Booking and paying for a bus ticket for example.
For mobile operators, it’s not unclear that basic voice services have been commoditised, ceasing to be a differentiating factor in service delivery. Unique value added service and data services present an opportunity for a new revenue stream.
While solutions can come direct from the network providers, there are even greater chances of brilliant ideas coming from third party providers, whether they are content providers or ICT solution developers. There’s therefore need for mobile operators to embrace third party developers. In fact, beyond, embracing, there’s need for operators to encourage the development of solutions that can help the operator differentiate itself positively from their competition. Operators should cultivate an environment where solution developers and entrepreneurs are aware of clear transparent channels to engage operators on VAS.
For traditional content providers currently being hemorrhaged severely by piracy, this growing VAS environment presents an opportunity to monetize their content by partnering with device distributors, developers and mobile network operators.