Telecom operators gear up for utility-based mobile VAS?

Telecom Lead Asia: Telecom operators are gearing up for utility-based mobile VAS.

Utility services-based mobile VAS such as banking, healthcare and education have impressive potential in South Asia, according to Frost & Sullivan.

IAMAI says though the ARPU has declined over the years, the per user spent on MVAS has gone up by 28 percent in the last one year. It is now 27 percent of the ARPU.

Current MVAS contributes 63 percent to revenue and Emerging

MVAS is expected to chip in with the balance 37 percent. The Current MVAS consists mainly of CRBT (27 percent) and SMS Based application (17 percent).

The Emerging MVAS consist mostly of mobile apps (10 percent) and games (8 percent). As of March 2012, there were 48 million mobile Internet users in India. It has been growing at the rate of 17 percent. Affordable mobile devices and cheaper data subscription rates are the main drivers for this rapid growth.

Mobile data services explosion, innovative business models, as well as increasing smartphone and tablet PC penetration will drive the adoption of utility mobile applications across South Asia.

Utility Mobile Applications and Data Usage in South Asia earned revenues of $0.28 billion in 2011. This is estimated to reach $4.88 billion in 2018 at a CAGR of 50.3 percent.

Mobile commerce is expected to experience the highest adoption rates and grow at a CAGR of 55.9 percent, followed by the mobile healthcare and education services.

Despite telecom operators’ eagerness to create RoI, the adoption of utility-based mobile VAS has been very low.

What is impacting telecom operators?

Operators are struggling to package these services in a format which will make them accessible to all. Telecom companies are also concerned about return on investments for services tailored for the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) consumers. High cost of the services and lack of vernacular support is hampering the end user adoption.

It is vital to provide interactive voice response (IVR) based services for users that are disinclined to use SMS-based services or data services. By 2018, the utility mobile applications are expected to account for almost 7.6 percent of the overall operator revenues in South Asia.

Look at Vodafone India that has tied up with mobile VAS company Handygo Technologies to launch IVR based service called Behtar Zindagi for rural India.

Vodafone India has more than 70 million mobile subscribers in rural India and mobile VAS is a major focus area. In Q3 2012-13, Vodafone India posted £44 million revenue from messaging services alone against voice revenue of £785 million. Its data revenue was £94 million.

An IVR-based offering from Vodafone has the potential to take the Indian mobile VAS to earn Rs 33,280 crore in 2013 from Rs 26,000 in 2012.

Frost & Sullivan suggests that operators in South Asia must focus on both the feature phone and the smartphone owners. This will enable them to offer utility services on advanced as well as traditional channels such as SMS for maximum reach.

Behtar Zindagi, the handset independent IVR solution from Vodafone India, is designed to cater to the information needs of rural people. It will help subscribers get information based on their location on agriculture, weather updates, rural finance, mandi rates, live stocks, fisheries education, health, and more. Users can ask a question to the experts on various related issues and they will get answers within 24-48  hours.

Recently, Reineke Reitsma, vice president, Research Director for Market Insights, Forrester, said: “Historically, consumers in Asia Pacific have done far more activities on their mobile phones than in other regions. With the increasing availability of affordable smartphones in the region, mobile phones are now the # 1 device for consuming media for many consumers in Asia Pacific.”

In many Asia Pacific countries, mobile penetration is much higher than that of PCs. As smartphone adoption increases in Asia Pacific, 90 percent of mobile phone owners in metropolitan China, 81 percent of mobile phone owners in metropolitan India, and 54 percent of mobile phone owners in Japan now use the mobile Internet at least monthly.

How 3G and 4G building mobile VAS revenue?

Both 3G and 4G will assist the rapidly growing mobile VAS segment to move to the next level.

Global mobile data service revenue, made up of mobile internet and messaging revenue, will rise by 21.4 percent between 2012 and 2014 to represent 40.4 percent of the $1 trillion mobile customers will be spending on their mobile phone services.

Besides developed markets, LTE network deployment in Latin America and Africa will create opportunity for regional mobile content and application developers, which will stimulate a nascent mobile apps and content marketplace.

Jake Saunders, VP and practice director, core forecasting, ABI Research, said: “As smartphones have become the entertainment hub in our lives, music, video and TV streaming’s contribution of mobile internet service revenue has jumped to 26 percent in 2012.”

India has around 800 million plus mobile users. The mobile VAS growth will be faster if Indian economy grows faster.

Digital Revolution — IBM experience

IBM says it is working with the online bank to deliver financial services that improve ING DIRECT’s customer experience including simplified account access across mobile devices and social media channels, voice recognition, and advanced security.

Orange Snapshot gives mobile consumers a complete and simplified view of all their accounts, as well as bill payment and email money transfers, in two easy clicks. This allows consumers to sign on once from their mobile device, saving time and aggravation from multiple log-ins.

ING DIRECT Canada CIO Charaka Kithulegoda said: “Mobile banking is changing not only how people bank, but also what they expect from their banks and, ultimately, whom they choose to bank with. ING DIRECT, with IBM’s help, is committed to making banking simpler, engaging and more relevant by giving customers the easy tools they need to bank whenever, wherever and however they want.”

ING DIRECT has begun experimenting with new voice recognition capabilities on their mobile apps that will allow clients to conduct simple banking transactions by speaking rather than typing or the application can read account information to the customer.

ING DIRECT is also exploring the use of biometrics within their mobile apps for purposes such as client login to improve the client experience while maintaining the highest standards of security.  Internal pilots are already yielding positive outcomes.

Arvind Krishna
[email protected]