Mobile technology has come a long way since the wide-eyed days when access to it was a preserve of the wealthy. In the present day with official stats putting the Kenyan market at 33.3 million mobile subscribers, every single business entity has a large percentage of its consumers active daily on mobile making the channel most attractive for marketing, demand generation and general communication.
The Communications Authority of Kenya is charged with licensing all players in the sector starting with the mobile network operators and the providers who then plug-in to operator infrastructure to offer value added services using channels such SMS, USSD and Voice. These application and content service providers then create in-house services targeted to end consumers, take on commissioned projects where they build custom solutions, or offer application programing interfaces to allow others to independently build their own solutions; all this to meet different business or organizational objectives. SMS and USSD are the commonly used channels with SMS most predominant as it allows for better monetization options.
SMS shortcodes are memorable 5 digit codes that are configured on different billing bands – zero rated, normal rated and premium rated. Each operator is assigned a numbering range by the regulator and you can tell who the range belongs to from its prefix. Shortcodes once provisioned by one operator can be mapped across all others ensuring service universality within national GSM networks.
The mobile network operators have established processes that providers must follow to get services live which on average takes five business days. During this time, the shortcodes are linked to the providers account and tested for billing, delivery consistency and other parameters that ensure services run tear-free. Shortcodes in the Kenyan market are rented monthly, which is a cost that most business and individuals looking to use mobile are often ill prepared for, especially since getting coverage across all three networks starts adding up if the underlying business model and strategy is not sound. One can however choose to be live on only one network, often inclined toward the market leader.
The operators in the recent past have taken up new intermediary platforms from vendors such as Huawei and IBM to curb abuse of the channel on previously used standards. The abuse was in the form of unsolicited messaging also known as spam and illegal onboarding of users to premium services which lead to a lot of consumer backlash. The middleware now allows for better service experiences to end consumers. Some attendant services call for additional know your customer requirements to ensure legal and regulatory compliance, abit of a chore for many but easily justified with the assurance of trademark or brand protection especially when dealing with sender id’s that allows for the sending of branded sms messages.
USSD while versatile and well positioned for interactive service has not seen much uptake outside operator self-help, mobile banking and other financial service implementations primarily due to cost of setup and maintenance and the lack of a revenue share models in its use.
Mobile value added services should be part of any organizations marketing and operational strategy.