Posts Tagged ‘warid uganda’

The Telecom Wars in Uganda – Round 5 – 2015 and Beyond

The telecom wars in Uganda just got a new lease in life, however looking forward the next round will claim some casualties. Why do I call this Round 5?

  1. Round 1 – Oct 21, 1998: MTN comes into Uganda, after a monopoly by Celtel (now Airtel) where simcards fell to the equivalent of US$30 with a monthly service fee of $10
  2. Round 2 – 2007 to 2009: Warid and Orange launch in Uganda, the Value Added Service Provider (VAS) boom, thanks to James Oloo Onyango for pointing this out
  3. Round 3 – 2009 to 2012: Mobile Money wars
  4. Round 4 – 2013 and 2014: Airtel acquires Warid telecom, Smart Telecom & Vodafone join the fray, MTN launches voice bundles

At this point each of the telcom companies operating in Uganda have voice bundles, data and internet plans plus mobile money platforms. With international calling plans falling towards zero, currently even cheaper than local network calls, social media/VOIP/Messaging applications cannibalizing SMS revenues, the battle for survival is ever-fierce with the any mis-step proving fatal.

Looking into my crystal ball, the next round is going to be fought along the following avenues:

  1. Mobile Money Partnerships – with banks, utilities, and other commercial players to entrench mobile money transfer deeper into the economics of the country.
  2. Service Partnerships – can be seen around data & internet services, so that the telecos are not reduced to dumb pipes. The agricultural, health and education sectors will see a new push for value added services via SMS in order to keep the users captive on a specific network.
  3. Personalized Bundles – combined voice, data and SMS bundles are not yet the rage, but they will gain prominence
  4. Family Bundles – with families having more than one phone, I see a push towards shared bundles to reduce the costs of new customer acquisition & increasing opportunity cost of switching. The impact of this tactic will be further complicated by the multi-sim phones that most consumers have.
  5. Smart device leasing plans – one I have called for, complicated by lack of a national ID, but I see success for whoever nails a working version of business model first.
  6. Business Customers: Majority of the telecom usage is personal, however business customers provide an interesting selling point with a knock on effect for smart devices, family or business plans and shared bundles. Most users are forced to use a service or network convenient to the bread winner or trend setter.
  7. Quality of Service: after all that is said and done, when the costs are almost at par, the quality of service for a specific provider will become a critical deciding factor both for business and personal use.

With all this opportunity also comes great peril, from the following:

  1. Niche players – ISPs for Internet and data as the capabilities for deploying metro-wide WIFI accelerate, informal money transfer services especially under Islamic banking
  2. Regulatory pitfalls and taxes – the impact of the recent 10% excise duty on mobile money fees is yet to be assessed
  3. Mobile Virtual Network Operators – are they friend or are they foe? Partner or competition if running atop of your infrastructure?
  4. Market saturation with falling revenues per customer – the telcos need to innovate to stay atop of the fast moving market that is to render them dumb pipes and their services commodity
  5. Number Portability – when this comes, it will disrupt the players as it abstracts the underlying providers.

How do you see the telecoms responding to these threats, please share in the comments below ….

UPDATE: Round 2 includes VAS providers who saw exponential growth in revenues at this time using SMS based solutions

Advertisements

Uganda Simcard Registration – Alternate Approach

By now all of you know that the mandatory simcard registration by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has gone naught, died a natural death like most Ugandan projects, a white elephant dead on conception. Sam Agona (http://www.samagona.org/?p=14) hit on the nail why UCC could not enforce its threat.

The approach I am proposing has the following strategic objectives:

  • Simplifying the process for the customer not the telecom providers
  • Centralized registration for telcos while segregating the data for each telco (Do I smell Number Portability ahead)
  • The minimum registration information for each telco is the same while allowing for each  telco to collect more data as may be required

The high-level architecture is as follows:

  • The telcos form a joint venture to manage the centralized registration system to keep it away from government to cater for privacy concerns, which can be mandated by the regulator or paid for from telco contributions to the regulator development fund 
  • Each telco pays based on the number of simcards registered – they are already paying agents a commission to register users anyway
  • The data for the subscribers for each telco are segreagated from each other but a user can access their registration information across the different telcos (technically this is no-longer a deal breaker)
  • A single set of mobile applications is used to register the customers – with each telco having an option to customize and brand the application for its own use
  • A unique sim-card registration number that’s only useable within this system, similar to the Financial Card Number for the credit reference bureau
  • Ability for a customer to add more simcards to their portfolio, does not have to be online or automated, but without the need for submitting all the documentation all over again
  • Support for business customers to register and maintain simcards (this also needs to be looked into as it can be used to circumvent why the registration was done in the first place
  • REQUIRED: An interface (not necessarily automated) to validate “official” documents like:
    • Passport – for Ugandans at least via Ministry of Internal Affairs
    • Drivers Licenses – Face Technologies – they already have tablets for Police to verify validity
    • NSSF Cards – okay I know these are not available but they took my photos and biometric
    • Corporation IDs (I am not sure how this would work since there are many briefcase companies abound)
    • Voter Registration cards – Electoral Commission?
    • Corporate Registration – Uganda Registration Services Bureau and Uganda Revenue Authority (TIN/VAT numbers)

The next question is who pays for the operations of this center which may be an annual service fee for the telcos based on the numbers of simcards maintained with fees for addition and removal of simcards,  “accurate and timely statistics” on Uganda mobile telco industry.

What are your thoughts? What else could be added?

Guide to Verifying Simcard Registration in Uganda

On March 5, 2012, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) launched a simcard registration exercise see my coverage at http://wp.me/pXn3W-4H. On February 28, 2013, all un-registered simcards will be switched off by the telecom providers so there is a concerted push to register the simcards. Estimates put registration at about 50%, but that number is to be put to the test at the end of the month.

This simple guide is to enable you to check for your registration (operators in alphabetical order)

UPDATE 3: November 2015 – all operators now use *197# and messages have also been updated

  1. Airtel – *197#
    • Response – SMS Message from KYC with text “Dear NAMES 075XXXXXXX,your Airtel Simcard has been sucessfully registered. You can now also send and receive Airtel Money”
  2. MTN  – *197*1#
    • Y’ello NAMES, your SIM card was registered successfully. Thank you for choosing MTN.
  3. Orange Uganda – *197#
    • Response -You have successfully registered 079xxxxxxx in the names of NAMES
  4. Smile Telecom – not offering mobile cellular services, all Internet customers are registered on signup
  5. Uganda Telecom – *123#
    • Response – Dear NAMES, your number 071XXXXXXX is now fully registered with Uganda Telecom. Thank u for choosing UTL. It’s all about U
  6. Warid Telecom –  *197# (same as Airtel above)

UPDATE: I have just been informed that dialing *197# can be used to check the registration status for any simcard (Thanks to alwangac via I-Network)
UPDATE 2: MTN simcard registration check is now functional

Did I miss anything or did this post help you, let me know

Launch of Sim Card Registration by Uganda Communications Commission – March 5, 2012

It is a Monday morning, and 7:00am as requested I am at the Sheraton Kampala for the launch of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) official launch of the sim card registration which requires all mobile phone users to register their sim cards with the Telcos. The telecoms are setting up registration tents outside so I think I will register my 4 (yes four) sim cards today and get it over and done with.

I already have my finger prints and photos taken for my drivers license, have my details also taken by two telecoms (MTN and UTL) for their mobile money services. Not forgetting I have to register with the other two telecoms for their mobile money services too 🙂

Today is the stakeholder launch and the public launch will be on March 24, 2012 at Nakivubo stadium. In attendance are the top guns of the telecoms, Security Minister and Inspector General of Police, Executive Director NITAU, members of parliament so it seems like the project has political buy-in. The social and technical challenges well are still yonder.

The driving factor for the sim registration is to curb the wave of crime perpetuated by explosion of mobile usage in Africa over the last decade based on the numbers from the ITU. This explains why the advertising theme for the sim card registration is “Make Communications Safe” and the messages are: no more hiding by bullies and conmen/conwomen, sim people have bad intentions. However this begs the question “Are there no positive messages to show how beneficial it is to register the sim cards?”

Critical issues that I am looking to see mentioned better still addressed:

1. Is the information to be synchronized across the different telecoms? – Answer: Each telco is charged with registering the subscribers within their network and securely storing the information within their system. This raises a question of interoperability between the information stored by the different operators on their systems.

2. Is the sim card registration also to be synced with mobile money registration too, or are they to be kept separate?

3. How are privacy implications to be addressed? Answer – This is the responsibility of the different telecoms overseen by UCC. The government is reassuring the public that the telecom providers will protect this information. With no details this is out in the wild.

4. How is this process to be scaled to the 40% sim card users in the rural populations who actually do not have any form of registration?

5. How will corporate registrations of sim cards to be handled?

6. How will this link up with all the other registration systems, National ID, Drivers license, Credit Reference Bureau, and any new ones that will be thought up too …?

7. How will verification of the registration information be done, do we assume that all who register are using their real names and information? Answer – the government will no tolerate any such activities

8. Who owns the registration information – the telecoms, UCC, Government of Uganda, the registrants? Answer – The information seems to be owned by the telecoms who capture the subscriber information.

I have registered my 4 sim cards on all services and here is my take on the operational challenges so far:

1. This is a chance for the service providers to sell their mobile money services, since the sim card registration is invariably mobile money registration too. This puts pressure on the incumbent MTN Uganda which has the largest foot print

2. The telcoms are ill prepared for the logistical nightmare that the sim card registration calls for, and will put pressure on their earnings for the next 2 years. We were only about 100 people at the stakeholder launch, but it took almost 20min at each providers stall. Mulitply this 10,000 fold and you get the picture with only 10% of estimated subscribers covered. Lessons from credit reference bureau service roll-out planning should have been used as it was done to over 500,000 bank account holders and was tied to regulatory compliance by financial institutions.

3. The duplication of efforts is daunting. My opinion is that UCC should have forced the telcoms to come together and carry out this registration as a block for it to be successful.

4. Information privacy is still a major issue which has not been addressed, we are being told to trust the telecoms.

5. There is no verification of information, and it is easy to get and use forged credentials for sim card registration which becomes official. This could have been simplified if the registration has been done by a block of telecoms.

On a parting note, as I always have them Isiah Katumwa’s saxophone playing is off the hook, what talent…

%d bloggers like this: