Once upon a time, people commonly used payphone booths, party telephone lines and rotary dial phones, but by 2000 and forward, those three have become mostly just cool things that hipsters talk about. From the moment mobile devices began to grace the telecommunications scene, people and the organizations they associate with have embraced their convenience, fashion statement, cost savings, gradual elimination of long distance, "take your phone number with you no matter where you go" empowerment and more. As a result of this revolution, some telecom operators flourish and others flounder.
Pew Internet shares that as of January 2014, 90 % of all American adults and 34 % of all South African adults own smart phones. South Africa and other African nations hold great potential for innovative telecommunications operators because of the low penetration to this point. A Nielsen report shows there has been an 89 % increase in mobile data usage with global mobile data usage predicted to grow 13 times from 2012 to 2017!
These facts demand respect. It seems inevitable that telecommunications industry would see just as big revenues. Why has voice and messaging revenue, in fact, declined by as much as one billion USD each month when comparing 2012 to 2011? The decline is predicted to get worse. When the going gets tough, the tough start observing and listening to customers and innovating services and products that show they are observing and listening.
With as many as 35 % of USA adults still predicted to finally welcome a smart phone as a necessity and the other 66 % of South African adults doing the same with smart phone or any kind of cell phone, that means as much as 35 - 66 % more voice and data revenue, and more telecommunications carriers and operators have the option to plan, prepare and execute action to capitalize. Be specific, right?
Telecommunications companies have access to probably the most data in the world, past, present and future. Productive analyses of that data and proper and enabling action to meet the needs of customers can help to gain and retain customers. To not only gain but also retain is an operator's dream come true. What makes the customers tick? Now telecoms have no reason to not know. Conferences such as Africa Com bring together those data mining experts together with operators to make the most of data, one of the dozens of ways to be more innovative and realize growth in revenue and customer happiness.
New, emerging markets such as in Africa, China, India and Brazil are said to hold at least 85 % of the telecommunications industry's growth between 2013 and 2017, but this is in mobile phone and service technology, not fixed telephony. No wonder the same countries have scores of entrepreneurs; families of students studying in USA, Europe, Japan and Australia; small businesses and nonprofit as well as governmental organizations who are choosing to own virtual phone lines or virtual phone numbers outside of their nation. They are at the cusp of extreme innovation and something way bigger than the 1999 DOT COM peak. Their potential for growth is not determined by traditional legislative and geographic boundaries. They can have a virtual local presence in the most fully developed nations where their "VIP" (very important people) such as current and potential customers, vendors, partners, family, and friends live, work and play…all because of something as commonplace as a local phone number. Telecom operators and service providers that are aware of such opportunities can gain those people as customers and retain them just by joining a wholesale DID phone number marketplace and getting involved in the buy, sell, trade opportunity.
Next, with near field communication and other contactless protocols and technologies, mobile money is the new exchange process and another way to see bigger revenues. Thousands of telecommunications related companies and entrepreneurs were enthralled with case studies to prove these facts at ITEXPO West in October 2015. The perfect follow up is participation in Africa Com November 2015 in Cape Town that attracts the experts who serve mobile payment users and providers in Africa and elsewhere. These are places where mobile money is used because traditional currencies just like traditional telephones are not practical and maybe even not available. No wonder AfricaCom will make available those experts to educate the rest of us from their vast and deep experience with mobile money opportunities. What is needed to make it work? Create apps that can be enabled by NFC (near field communications.) What is that? They make it more convenient to sell and buy, for example, via a barcode or a tap and so on.
Consumers and small businesses drive the commercial world. Such is true with, for example, transportation, communication, commerce, and the "Internet of Things." A boss sends a Q & A beacon to one of his most industrious team members after that person states, "I wish I could just ask a question to thin air and get the answer right away." A business lady prepares for an important business meeting with a prominent Japanese company and says, "Ok, Google. What is proper Japanese business card etiquette?" Nearly every new car in South Africa has an M2M connection with a goal to combat car theft. Utilities companies use M2M to track energy consumption. Vending machines, kitchen cupboards and refrigerators "automatically update" their vending sources with replenishment requests. Who stands to benefit with increased revenues from such? The companies…that set up the stage to create the apps, that sell the devices, and that provide the backbone of the routing of the services…are the telecommunications operators.
So, in summary, data access, analysis and empowering action; mobile devices and services; virtual phone lines; near field technologies, mobile money and payments; and the Internet of Things are the stuff that telecommunications operators' dreams are made of. With the fast and growing embrace of cloud services, virtual private networks and hosting, B2B and the markets they serve save more money, make more money and create and enjoy more innovation. Telecommunications companies have earned their place in the middle and as the foundation of these freedoms and breakthroughs.
While the old ways that telecommunications operators made money are slipping away, new, very practical and empowering ways are taking their place, and consumers as well as B2B are driving this change. Observe, listen and act!
By Suzanne Bowen, VP DIDX.net (technology media partner and wholesale telephony marketplace provider)
By banking on initiatives from the Facebook-backed Telcom Infra Project (TIP) to disaggregate cellular networks, MTN and other operators are recruiting startup vendors to help deliver data connections to the under-served.