Tariff increases unsettle Zimbabwe telecommunications firms

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Wednesday, Nov 13th

Why content is king for Africa's mobile operators

Why content is king for mobile operators.

Digital content provided by over-the-top (OTT) providers is an effective customer acquisition tool, and should form part of operators' acquisition and stickiness strategies, according to expert panelists.

Speaking at the 17th annual AfricaCom conference in Cape Town, South Africa, panelists agreed that as mobile usage increasingly focuses on data, there is a "land grab" happening amongst operators to sign up as many new data customers as possible.

"What we're going for now, it's getting data customers. It's a land grab - getting people online and using data," said Willie Ellis, head of products and innovation at Airtel Africa.

According to the panelists, the key element in securing more customers is providing value, and the value consumers are most attracted by is easy and affordable access to content provided by OTT players, especially social media content.

"We do see a trend that people like to move to where the value is," said Maria Pienaar, chief information officer (CIO) at South Africa's third operator Cell C.

"You need to look at the whole ecosystem...to see how we can make content affordable and usable for consumers," she said.

Given that consumers are willing to move networks to get the best value, the panelists agreed that digital content can be a very useful tool in customer acquisition efforts.

"We see content as a means to an end," said Ellis, adding that content is used as part of a strategy to secure new customers, and then to drive data revenues.

"There are definite benefits to operators [of making content accessible]. It's part of our customer acquisition strategy and part of our stickiness strategy," said Pienaar.

Operators should find ways to collaborate with OTT providers in order to leverage the power of content in providing value to customers, such as through introducing zero-rated services, or through bundling, the panelists said.

"Our strategy for the next three years is to grow and to help our partners grow," said Nicola D'Elia, head of international growth and partnerships for the EMEA region at Facebook.

"Our priority for Africa is to grow, and to work with our partners to bring more people online."

"I think that there needs to be a move to co-exist in the internet with OTT players, and to use those players as a front for our services [data]", said Ellis.

Speaking of Cell C's recent decision to zero rate WhatsApp on its service, Pienaar said: "Being in a saturated market like South Africa - where there's 120 per cent penetration - we find these sorts of mechanisms are definitely helping."

"We see a shift towards social media, but for us its too early to zero rate any site," said Frank Magombo, head of innovations at TNM Malawi, adding that in Malawi bundles are working the best.

Finally, the panelists agreed a broad variation in payment solutions need to be implemented to make buying data easier for consumers, and that content should be available through multiple mobile wallets.

"Mobile money fills a gap in how to pay for content," said Ellis, adding innovative payment mechanisms are needed for African markets.


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