How mobile virtual network operators can support digital transformation – Business Day

With the accelerated transfer of social interaction, education and commerce from the physical to the virtual world, demand for online capabilities has skyrocketed, fuelling dramatic increases in network traffic and data usage.

This shift to doing everything online has compelled companies in almost every industry to fast-track their digital transformation efforts. But access to connectivity is required in driving the adoption of digitised services.

The need for online communication, streaming and education has lifted demand for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Various companies across sectors, including financial services, are collaborating with network providers to unlock added value for customers, and to enable connectivity to digitised services.

What is a MVNO?

MVNOs are companies that do not own a mobile network but rent capacity on an existing network instead.

They purchase this capacity in bulk and, as a result, can negotiate much better rates from the network owner than an individual consumer could, which means MVNOs can pass this price benefit onto their own customers.

Why would a bank become a MVNO?

Banks are looking to digitise their services but clients require connectivity to use these services. Operating an MVNO enables the bank to package connectivity with their digital services, at a very low cost or even for free, helping customers access these digital services more effectively.

This allows banks to package mobile products together with banking products, which makes sense for them to do as it makes it easier for customers to access their services. It’s also in the interest of financial services providers to ensure customers can connect to their services at the lowest possible cost. Banks can do this by passing on the pricing benefits of buying in bulk from telecoms networks to their customers. It then makes sense for customers to buy their mobile and banking services together because it’s cheaper to do so.

Another reason MVNOs make sense for companies is their focus on personalisation. The large mobile operators generally offer one-size-fits-all packages. While some may be satisfied with a generic plan, an increasing number of people want something that is tailored to their specific needs.

Therefore, having an MVNO enables the bank to package products to clients’ needs, instead of the one-size-fits-all product from an existing operator.

Standard Bank has created an ecosystem of custom-developed airtime and data solutions, tied into clients’ banking.

This is because we understand that everyone needs to bank and be connected to participate in an increasingly interconnected world where we are consuming huge amounts of data. In the past 18 months, the number of customers making use of Standard Bank’s Mobile Money offering has trebled.

Customers who subscribe to Standard Bank Mobile can access rewards including:

  • receiving your monthly bank fee back in airtime;
  • free data every time you swipe your credit or debit card; and
  • op to 2GB free data each month if you’re a member of the UCount Rewards programme.

As South Africans turn to the internet for critical purposes, device access has become essential, but few can fork out the cash for a new device. Instead, you can buy a phone from Standard Mobile by using the budget facility on your credit card and pay it off over 24 months. This often results in a cheaper monthly payment than an equivalent 24-month contract with one of the network providers.

Enabling connectivity is critical to financial services and economic growth. In the broader financial services industry, there is an increasing convergence with telecommunications and vice versa. As banks continue to ramp up the digitisation of their services, a telecoms capability becomes essential.

Promoting access to financial services requires promoting access to connectivity. The two fit together. In the old days, you visited a branch to conduct banking. Now, almost every banking activity can be managed via your phone.

To provide more people with access to banking services, we must enable access to connect with the bank via telecommunications. This will ultimately help to bring more people into the financial system, and drive economic growth in SA and Africa.

About the author: Stephen Bailey is executive head at Standard Bank.

This article was paid for by Standard Bank.

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