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Helping MNOs fight against OTT apps

Helping MNOs fight against OTT apps

There are two major challenges that MNOs in Africa need to urgently tackle as their voice revenue continues to decline:

1. Providing an alternative to OTT calling or messaging apps

2. Enabling roaming at a reduced cost.

Even today most MNOs don't have a strategy for winning back any share of the voice market. However, as the saying goes, 'if you can't beat them, join them.'

Developing their own branded voice apps and pre-installing these on smartphones – or encouraging their customers to download them by providing free data for the download - is the obvious approach with MNOs.

But there really is no need to launch a MeToo OTT voice app. What would be the point? To succeed the MNOs need to offer something different for their customers.

That something different could be a hybrid OTT voice service that allows subscribers to access traditional telco services such as calling, SMS and voicemails over data.

The crucial differentiator to OTT apps such as WhatsApp is that the hybrid voice app doesn't require both caller and recipient to have the app to connect. Person A dials Person B's regular mobile number – and doesn't know or care that the call is received in an app by Person B.

These types of apps have also garnered immense interest in the roaming community as it provides a low-cost mechanism for operators to roll out attractive roaming packages.

For Person B, the hybrid voice app enables them to receive voice calls in the app and access voicemail in the same app wherever they are in the world. They might simply be in an area where there is weak or no cellular coverage, or they might be abroad and unable to receive a call because their operator does not have roaming agreements in place. Or the roaming charges might be eye-wateringly expensive.

So, the benefit for the MNO is that they hold onto the revenue from such calls, which would have otherwise been lost. In addition, there is a reduction in the number of dropped calls. If Person B is offline, then the call will be connected to the voicemail system within the app.

For people with multiple SIMs and phones, all calls to all numbers - local and international - can be linked to the app. This is very convenient especially when you consider that people carry multiple phones to receive calls from their various numbers. It also opens up an untapped market for virtual numbers. So, for example, a South African working in the US can buy a South Africa SIM, link it to the hybrid app and share this number with his contacts in South Africa. He can then start receiving calls immediately.

Meanwhile, business owners can give local numbers to customers to call, while answering these calls in a centralised call center for free.

The voice market has changed, and it is time for the MNOs to fight back by offering new data-based-services to their customers which will help them stay relevant.

* By Godslove Adagbonyin, Communications & Marketing Manager at Kirusa.

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