Millions of mobile and online content users across Africa and the Middle East will reap the benefits of a tie-up between MTN and IMImobile - an India-based software and managed services provider linked to 350 content providers worldwide.
The two companies have teamed up in a bold move to address the growing demand for content in emerging markets. This strategic partnership will entail providing MTN’s 21 markets access to a repository of current and globally popular content through enhanced delivery platforms. Content categories will include music (with local and international flavour), sports, games, entertainment, news and much more.
It will also enable MTN to launch new income-generating voice and data services across its global footprint, with worldwide revenues from mobile content and services estimated at around US$150.2 billion in 2011, up from US$89.3 billion in 2006.
One of MTN’s new content streams will be the 2010 FIFA World Cup of which the mobile operator has exclusive global mobile content rights. Accordingly, MTN will leverage its IMImobile partnership to deliver exclusive 2010 FIFA World Cup content on subscribers’ handsets, including match news, fixtures and match results as well as team and group profiles.
The appointment of IMImobile as a strategic managed services and hosting partner follows an extensive review of MTN’s mobile content and media services landscape across its global footprint. MTN is now aligning its mobile content and media services strategy across its 21 markets in Africa and the Middle East to standardise and enhance its media content offerings to its subscribers.
MTN also wants to capitalise on the rapidly converging data content and voice market, with Africa, the Middle East and Latin America poised to witness the highest growth in revenue as additional mobile data services are being deployed in these regions.
Nozipho January-Bardill, MTN Group Corporate Affairs Executive, says IMImobile was selected from a group of major global telecom software and service providers because of the scalability of its technology platforms and managed services business model, “IMImobile’s value proposition and technology solutions will enable MTN to reduce the time-to-market for new services, boost Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and keep MTN at the forefront of innovative services...We have found a partner in IMImobile that has the insight and expertise of the appropriate managed service business model and technology solution necessary to continue to deliver premium content and services to our customers.”
MTN has already introduced a number of exciting products and services on its portal and on www.mtnfootball.com during the FIFA Confederations Cup in June this year. This content is currently being archived to allow football fans to re-live the moment long after the games.
IMImobile will deploy its Service Delivery Platform (SDP), including its industry leading DaVinci Content Management System (CMS). The content strategy includes tailoring content for local consumer preferences, including French and Arabic, as well as exploiting MTN’s sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup through www.mtnfootball.com.
The 16 countries IMImobile will be deploying its full CMS across are: Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic Conakry, Liberia, Afghanistan, Syria, Cyprus and Yemen. IMImobile will also directly connect its central platform in London to the existing CMS platforms of the following five countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Iran and Sudan.
Developing Telecoms spoke to IMImobile Founder and CEO Vishwanath Alluri:
What is the timescale for the main stages of the MTN/IMImobile contract?
MTN subscribers in certain markets are already using services powered by IMImobile’s DaVinci Service Delivery Platform but the full range of platform capabilities and services will go “live” in all 21 countries by 1Q10.
What equipment and what services will a customer have to purchase to obtain the content you are enabling for MTN?
MTN subscribers do not need particular handsets to access the content services from IMImobile. The partnership not only sees IMImobile powering the delivery of content for MTN, but IMImobile is also bringing more content to subscribers from its own existing relationships with over 350 content providers, which considerably expands the range of services available.
What types of services and content were MTN subscribers able to receive before the partnership?
In the past, MTN has offered subscriber services and download packages for content like mobile music, news and games. But importantly, these services were delivered through fragmented platforms, which were either stitched together by systems integrators or provided by vendors of point products, or a combination of the two; IMImobile is replacing these disparate systems with its proven DaVinci Service Delivery Platform to streamline content management and service delivery (as IMImobile powers content delivery, the company is not in a position to comment on the content that was available to MTN subscribers prior to the deal, but can outline what is available now).
What types of services and content can MTN subscribers now receive as part of its deal with IMImobile?
The deal means IMImobile will be managing the delivery of a comprehensive range of content and applications for 103 million MTN subscribers, across 21 markets in Africa and the Middle East. IMImobile’s DaVinci Content Management System will enable a wide range of services such as information services (eg, alerts), interaction services (eg’ contests, voting etc), content storefronts hosted on Web and WAP, caller tunes (RBT), and voice portals. The service delivery is personalised to suit the users’ device capabilities and individual preferences. In addition, the MTN Group has the exclusive mobile content rights for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, so this will form a new content stream delivered by IMImobile for MTN subscribers. IMImobile will be delivering content services that include soccer match news, fixtures, match results, as well as team and group profiles.
What are the business benefits for operators to work with specialist managed services providers like IMImobile?
Demand for mobile content and applications has risen dramatically over the past few years. Today’s user has quite specific preferences and expects to be able to receive a range of services on their mobile handset. This means that operators need to manage a wide range of services, continually developing them to take advantage of emerging revenue opportunities. Using a managed services provider like IMImobile minimises the risks of launching new services by removing the need for the operator to invest in significant upfront capital expenditure and ongoing operational activities.
What are IMImobile’s credentials for running such content services?
IMImobile has unrivalled experience in the delivery of managed mobile value added services globally. The company has existing relationships with over 350 content providers, as well as comprehensive experience working with major operators and media companies worldwide. IMImobile has an established and scalable service delivery platform that allows rapid application development based on proven modules, and which handles everything from service design to security, delivery and reporting. From the inception, IMImobile has implemented an open API approach, opening up previously closed systems for operators and enabling them to learn quickly from subscriber habits and data.
How would you summarise this deal with MTN?
This is a major commercial milestone for IMImobile as we continue to build our offering to support leading operators worldwide. To be chosen by MTN as its strategic partner ahead of a strong list of competitors is testament to our unique service which is based on industry leading technology platforms, content management expertise, a managed services and SaaS business model combined with 24/7 technical support and strict SLA compliance. We are excited by the opportunity and are looking forward to helping MTN achieve its objectives of creating substantial additional revenue streams.
Are there any upcoming developments you would like to mention?
Access to social networking services on mobile phones is a key feature for consumers now. While integrating social networks with other mobile services might be a step in the right direction, a more strategic approach would be to take full advantage of the natural hub of all mobile activity – the phonebook. Properly managed, the phonebook can be the central access point for consumers wanting to access social networks, central address books (online and mobile), new mobile applications, their calendars and events, content services and of course their main communication channels to their friends and family. With the right open API-based technology, the phonebook can even act as a hub of innovation around which developers can incubate new ideas and services.
The challenge in launching such consumer-centric services, though, is something operators have limited experience in doing, especially across multiple territories and cultures. This is where specialists like IMImobile are useful. We acquired Mobytec, the technology behind Mobyko’s social aggregation platform earlier this year, and as such can now offer integrated social networking with other services so mobile users can use their phone not just for content but for social media sharing too.
* Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a multinational telecommunications group, operating in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As at 30 June 2009, MTN recorded 103.2 million subscribers across its operations in Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Iran, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. The MTN Group is a global sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and has exclusive mobile content rights for Africa and the Middle East.
** IMImobile provides converged mobile and online technology platforms and content services to mobile operators and media companies around the world. The IMImobile product portfolio includes a core service delivery platform (DaVinci SDP), mobile advertising platform (Ad-Ring), carrier grade messaging platforms and gateways, applications for data services, full track music download services and voice platforms. Customers include leading operators and media companies such as Airtel, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, Google, Reuters and Yahoo! IMImobile operates in 40 countries and offices in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.