Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Telenor breaks down barriers to emerging market mobile Internet

By Mary Lennighan, Total Telecom, in Hong Kong
Thursday 18 November 10

Norwegian incumbent identifies clear device strategies and pricing as key to spread of mobile data services; hits out at 3G licensing delays in Asia.

Consumer demand for mobile Internet services exists worldwide, but some markets present a more challenging operating environment than others. Norway's Telenor has set about tackling the barriers to emerging market deployment and along the way discovered that it can share knowledge between its Nordic and developing country operations. According to Hilde Tonne…

Consumer demand for mobile Internet services exists worldwide, but some markets present a more challenging operating environment than others.

Norway's Telenor has set about tackling the barriers to emerging market deployment and along the way discovered that it can share knowledge between its Nordic and developing country operations.

According to Hilde Tonne, deputy head of Telenor's Asian operations, devices, terminology and pricing are the key factors to consider with an emerging market mobile broadband service.

Operators must have a clear device strategy and must address the issue of complexity on devices. “[We must ask] how to make this easy for our customers,” she said at Mobile Asia Congress on Thursday.

One answer is to set up the devices so they are ready for customers to use. Telenor took this approach in Bangladesh with its Grameenphone subsidiary. The company launched Grameenphone-branded devices “and we pre-set them,” Tonne explained.

Using industry acronyms, such as GPRS and EDGE, in emerging markets is confusing, Tonne said. “Why not just call it what it is?” she said. In Bangladesh, for example, the company refers to 'using email on your phone', which is effectively the extent of its Internet service there.

When it comes to pricing, “it needs to be small buckets,” she went on. Customers in emerging markets require predictable and simple pricing, as well as multiple top-up possibilities for prepaid users.

“[In Pakistan customers] buy small buckets in the morning and they top up [again] in the afternoon. This is how we need to think in emerging markets,” Tonne said. “Large buckets, flat-rate is not what we want.”

Despite the market differences, the telco has transferred some of its experience in Norway to its operations in developing countries. In its home market Telenor is facing network congestion as a result of increasing usage volumes. “We start to manage the traffic through our price plans,” and by limiting heavy users, Tonne said. It is also doing this in India and Bangladesh in order to reduce costs. Conversely, innovative services implemented in markets like Thailand and Malaysia can be imported back to Norway, she added.

However, there are some barriers that Telenor is unable to surmount.

Increasingly we see governments in Asia's emerging markets “moving in the wrong direction,” said Tonne. In particularly she highlighted delays in the auctioning of 3G spectrum in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand, and a growing lack of transparency.

“This is not making it easy to deploy mobile Internet in our markets,” Tonne said.

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