Event-based services: As free apps dent revenues, operators innovate

Ahead of general elections, cellular operators start to offer related services.

The increasing use of chat-based mobile apps such as WhatsApp and Viber has hurt SMS-based traffic, says telecom official. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD


In times when more consumers are moving to chat-based mobile applications – a rising trend that is hurting revenues from short message service (SMS) – event-based services seem to have become an important revenue stream for cellular mobile operators (CMOs).

The latest example, reflecting the reliance of CMOs upon important events is their election-related services.

Ufone is running an ad campaign – Election Service for U – which offers subscribers to get election updates for three of their favorite constituencies. The subscribers for this voice and SMS-based service can also access speeches of politicians and political analysis.

Zong has also launched its election-related service by the name ‘Election Campaign 2013’. It will cover election news, election reviews, poll results, party information and voting information.

From commercial standpoint, SMS-based traffic is the highest revenue source for CMOs globally, according to a telecom official. The increasing use of chat-based mobile apps such as WhatsApp and Viber has hurt SMS-based traffic, he said. CMOs, therefore, find such campaigns useful to make up for that loss, he said.

“Event-based value-added services always help out because they engage consumers very quickly,” said Farooq Niaz, Zong’s Manager Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility. The election 2013 services are information-based, Niaz said, and that is what people need.

It merits mentioning here that cellular teledensity – that stands around 70% – has certainly facilitated that information flow. The CMOs are not only able to reach masses but also benefit commercially by launching information-based services.

Telenor’s Angootha Chalao campaign is one example where a cellular service provider is creating awareness about the importance of voting and at the same time offering services such as election encyclopedia that provides subscribers with answers to election related questions. The Election Halqa Information, according to Telenor, provides users information regarding their constituency and SMS alerts provides them with breaking news and motivational sayings.

The main idea of the campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of voting, encouraging the youth to vote and providing the necessary election related information, Asghar said.

Increased teledensity definitely played a role in shaping the dynamics of elections this time around, Atifa Asghar, director corporate communications and responsibility of Telenor Pakistan. Some campaigners have fully integrated the mobile phone as a critical medium in their overall political campaigns, she said. “Having a mobile phone has made the flow of information very easy and people feel more opinionated and empowered in elections,” she added.

Pakistan’s telecommunications industry earned Rs12.4 billion through 237.6 billion SMSs during 2011, data from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority shows. The SMS-based traffic grew 35% during 2011 when compared with previous year with a single mobile phone user consuming an average 175 person-to-person texts messages per month.

The SMS-data for 2012 onwards is not available but industry sources told this correspondent that the use of WhatsApp and Viber had increased among users. These apps run on Wifi for which users are not charged, an official said, while SMS bundles are paid for.

With consumers shifting to chat-based apps that reduce SMS-based traffic, he said, event-based services such as election 2013 come in handy for the industry.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2013.

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Asad Malik | 8 years ago | Reply

It's funny how they term it a 'loss' while it only reduces their profit slightly. It should be more like 'oh yea, instead of making 2 billion we only made 1.5 billion in profit'. We need to make up for the 'loss' of 500 million

Mubariz Khan | 8 years ago | Reply

Yeah that is true. Now they should focus on internet packages & speed more!

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