Upward mobility

The grand assembly at the recent Mobile World Congress 2008 (MWC) hosted in Barcelona set the agenda for the global telecoms industry. CommsMEA examines the market developments facing the Middle East telecoms players.

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By  Administrator Published  March 22, 2008

Installed and tested since January 2008, the solution quickly provided Zain with the capability to deliver targeted advertisements over SMS messaging to its subscribers.

Ziad Al Masri, Zain Jordan's mobile data services senior manager, said: "We have been delighted with the results that Jinny's advertising engine has delivered during these trials. They have highlighted the potential gains Zain in Jordan will benefit from as a result of implementing this solution on our network, as well as the benefits that our subscribers will derive from this sophisticated new service."

Developing markets

Meanwhile, other multi-national telcos used the event to announce new initiatives in the Middle East and Africa's less developed markets.

Vodafone, one of the world's largest international mobile communications groups, and Afghanistan's Roshan announced the launch of the country's first mobile money transfer system.

The service, branded M-Paisa, is a mobile technology platform that provides financial services for those without access to banking and aims to facilitate economic activity in the region.

The M-Paisa system builds on Vodafone's much-lauded M-PESA mobile money transfer service in Kenya which has seen 1.6 million people register as customers since its launch in March of last year.

Roshan and Vodafone also used the event to promote their trial of an interactive voice recognition service which, when launched later in the year, will enable greater use of M-Paisa by consumers who might otherwise be excluded owing to high rates of illiteracy in Afghanistan.

In addition, Vodafone announced its intention to launch two new own branded mobile phones to grow its range of low cost own-branded specifically targeted at cost-sensitive emerging markets.

The Vodafone 227 and Vodafone 228 were launched at the event and are available across Europe and emerging markets.

The Vodafone 227 is a clamshell phone and the Vodafone 228 is a slider mobile. In addition to core text and voice services, both come with a colour display, vibrating alert and headset.

The launch of these mobile phones follows the successful introduction of seven own-branded handsets by Vodafone throughout 2007, which today make up on average one in six of Vodafone's annual handset shipments.

With emerging markets providing such opportunities for exponential growth, sub-Saharan Africa is also bound to attract the commercial interests of telecoms companies in the developed world.

Vodafone, meanwhile, used the Mobile World Congress to announce that it had deployed M-Pesa, a money transfer service launched in March 2007, with Kenya's Safaricom to 1.6 million customers.

The benefit of facilitating micro transactions via text in a land like Kenya where, in 2007, there were 400 bank branches, 600 cash dispensing machines and over 10 million mobile phones is plain to see, announced the operator.

In the first 18 weeks alone of the commercial availability of the service, some 200,000 customers had signed up to it. M-PESA is used by customers for a wide range of money transfer transactions, with an average value of Euro 30.

Companies CAN also use the service: Safaricom pays casual workers and has distributed 40,000 low value cash prizes to its subscribers using M-PESA. A number of small businesses, such as taxi drivers and grocers, accept it as an alternative payment mechanism and it is often used by consumers as a secure method of storing and transferring money in dangerous times.

Looking to the future, Vodafone anticipates that pension payments, and the payment of standard services such as Safaricom contract phones, water and electricity charges will also be made by mobile money transfer.

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