[MWC 2013] Etisalat Group Offers Low-Cost Access to Social Media and Email via USSD to Emerging Markets

Millions of mobile users owning basic mobile phones across Africa and Asia are now able to join the online community using a new low-cost USSD messaging service from Etisalat. This will provide access to email, social networking and messaging services, to basic mobile devices and feature phones at very affordable prices.

This follows an agreement between the Etisalat Group, the leading operator in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia, and Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and value added solutions, which was signed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Group-level partnership agreement was signed on Etisalat’s stand in Hall 2 2B110 by Etisalat Group’s Chief Commercial Officer, Rainer Rathgeber and Ambar Sur, Global Market Unit Head for Mahindra Comviva. The contract for Etisalat Nigeria was signed by Steven Evans, CEO for Etisalat Nigeria and Kaustubh Kashyap, Mahindra Comviva’s Global Key Account Manager for Etisalat. Also present were Essa Al Haddad, who is both the Etisalat Group’s CEO for Africa and vice chairman of EMTS and Manoranjan Mohapatra, Mahindra Comviva’s CEO.

The partnership provides Etisalat’s 139 million subscribers across Middle East, Africa and Asia with consumer email, instant messaging, social networking, phone book backup services as well as popular news/web feeds and other relevant applications over their mobile phone. They can do this either through downloading an application or via USSD, SMS or MMS messages which eliminates the users’ dependence on smartphones. This effectively provides access to contemporary web services to every mobile handset.

The platform will be deployed in a single location within the UAE, while the services will be made available to all the 15 affiliates of Etisalat. The first Etisalat market to deploy the new messaging solution is Etisalat Nigeria, whose 15 million subscribers will soon be able to enjoy the benefit of advanced communications on any handset.

Steven Evans, CEO Etisalat Nigeria explained the rationale behind being the first Etisalat operating unit to deploy the new messaging solution. He said, “Nigeria has a vast population of young people, a majority of which are basic-phone holders with no or minimum data capabilities. As we continue to attract new customers to our network across various segments, it is our desire that we are able to address their needs to enjoy emailing, instant messaging, and social networking amongst other services no matter the type of handset they are using. Etisalat Nigeria is acclaimed the industry leader in innovation and mobile broadband so this latest addition to our portfolio further reinforces our positioning and opens new opportunities to customers to experience firsthand some of the exciting services we have to offer through this partnership”.

Commenting on the partnership, Essa Al Haddad, Chief Executive Officer, Africa at the Etisalat Group and Vice Chairman at EMTS said, “With the ubiquity of Internet, Internet-enabled services such as social networking, email and instant messaging have gained tremendous popularity. However, with smartphone adoption still low in many countries and multiple clients for each service, the user experiences get very complicated. These will limit the adoption of such web services on mobile handsets. Comviva has always been a trusted partner for Etisalat and with this new engagement, we will bring such and other more richer and interactive web services for our subscribers without any such limitations.”

Manoranjan Mohapatra, CEO, Mahindra Comviva, added, “We are excited to extend our partnership with Etisalat Group by offering these exciting web services for all its subscribers across 15 affiliates. These Cloud-based offerings will significantly accelerate time to market for Etisalat, stably. This partnership also reflects our commitment to create and deploy innovative and revenue-enhancing solutions that will delight subscribers and thus help Etisalat build a sustainable competitive advantage in their markets.” As per the recent report from Nielsen, consumers’ time spent with social media on mobile apps and the mobile web has increased 63 percent in 2012, compared to the same period last year. Juniper Research forecasts that the number of mobile IM (Instant Messaging) users will exceed 1.3 billion by 2016.