Developing the mobile data usage has become the main priorities of operators across developing countries.
Indeed the smartphone penetration has been on the rise whatever the country and the operator. A fierce battlefield has started between smartphones manufacturers and players to commercialise low-cost handsets: Android announced in H2 2014 its Android One Initiative. Then Mozilla announced its intention to launch a $33 Firefox OS 2G-only mobile phone to address specifically the Indian mobile market.
But owning a smartphone does not necessarily mean you people use mobile data services. Ask any mobile operator's Head of Data the following question: “Out of 100 people owning a smartphone, how many use regularly data services?” . You'll often get an embarrassed, evasive - if not wrong - answer. Simply because it’s probably one of the taboos of the mobile industry. Rare are the operators admitting publicly the reality: 25% only of the smartphone owners use data services. Therefore you would not be wrong in assessing that only 20 to 25% of smartphones or data-enabled phones owners do use mobile Internet- so engaging people on smartphones is the next big frontier of our industry.
A first reason to this low data mobile usage often stands in the pricey data perceived as a barrier to Internet access in developing countries. But raging wars between carriers should solve this issue.
Another reason is user behavior: people who owned a basic phone for years - and moving to an inexpensive mobile data phone - are not fully aware of how to use a handset browser, to browse an app store to download an app. In other words, operators have to deal with offering Value Added Services on new devices that are compliant with users’ habits of using services on basic phones, i.e. text-only and black & white - but still with the intention of migrating them to mobile data.
So, how to answer these two requirements (getting more data users while educating them to data services)? Is there a way to kill two birds with one stone?
Operators have widely adopted collaboration schemes with OTT giants. You won't find a single carrier that has not launched yet a WhatsApp or FB special offer.
At Gemalto, we brought our contribution brick to that challenge by designing Facebook for SIM: on one hand, it provides a mobile interactive text version of Facebook that works on any handset - and on the other hand, helps to increase the data usage of the Internet-enabled phones.
The results speak by themselves: out of 100 people successfully creating their Facebook account from this SMS-based app, 22% migrated to mobile data after 30 days only - thanks to a built-in mechanism helping users to be familiar with the handset browser. Surprisingly, this figure can go until 100% when users also have 20 friends in the FB community!
Chinese philosopher Laozi used to say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The transition to mobile data of everyone across developing countries is for sure a very long journey…
Sébastien Violette is Senior Marketing Manager at Gemalto.