Emerging markets driving VAS growth

Emerging markets will drive the growth of global mobile value-added-service (VAS) revenues from $200bn in 2009 to $340bn in 2014. With China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Poland and the Ukraine expected to account for 36 per cent of such revenues at the end of the forecast period.

The numbers were released on Tuesday by research house Informa Telecoms & Media, which has been monitoring the high growth potential for VAS in emerging markets as high market saturation limits growth prospects in developed countries.

In fact, operators and service providers in emerging markets have been more innovative and proactive in developing and deploying mobile VAS than their counterparts in the developed world, especially in the areas of mobile payments, P2P funds transfer and agricultural information services. The reason being that these services are having a big impact on the day-to-day lives of the local population and are contributing to the social and economic development of the population in these markets, Informa said, citing services such as M-Pesa from Safaricom in Kenya, the Rural Information Service from China Mobile, the Please Call Me service from MTN in South Africa, and the CellBazaar service from GrameenPhone in Bangladesh.

“Compared to the developed world, there are very different economic, social, demographic and cultural challenges in the emerging markets. In many countries, 3G services are still not available, or are limited to mobile subscribers in larger cities. Therefore operators have to depend on 2G services such as SMS, USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems, to be able to drive mass market adoption of their mobile value-added-services, and to successfully reach subscribers in smaller towns and rural areas,” said Shailendra Pandey, senior analyst at Informa.

Pandey adds that mobile social networking is beginning to see strong growth in emerging markets but most of the services are instant messaging chat applications. One of the most successful service examples is China Mobile’s IM service called Fetion, which has over 100 million registered users. The addressable market for the Fetion service is large as it can work using IVR, GPRS and SMS access modes. Also, mobile app stores have so far not received the same attention from the operators in emerging markets as they have in the US and Western Europe, although some large operators like China Mobile have already launched – or are considering launching – their own app stores. Earlier this year, China Mobile collaborated with Nokia to launch a joint mobile app store MM-Ovi and it has been reported that over four million mobile apps had been downloaded from this app store by March 2010.

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