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The tariff wars between the mobile operators was bound to have a resounding effect at some point in time, with the day of reckoning coming by way of Safaricom announcement of their half year results that saw a 47.4 percent dip in half year net profit to Ksh 4 billion. Traditional voice and messaging has in the past been majorly peer to peer and served as the cash cow for mobile  network operators. With consumers calling for lower tariffs on both these fronts, mobile network operators are having their work cut out for them, if the plum profits they have enjoyed in the past are to remain constant.

TNS Research International East Africa released a report last year dubbed  – Digital Life 2010  that looked into what Kenyans are doing online. That alongside other research can help in determining where to place effort and financing toward the creation of compelling new services for mobile network operators. What is important though is that this innovation need not come from within the operators but they should look to the growing local developer community.

My growth area forecasts are as follows.

Continue Reading…

Everyone is thinking mobile, just as everyone was thinking web a decade ago. Every brand, church, politician, government agency, you name it wants to have a piece of the pie. “I have a very simple idea for a mobile application, it should not take to much of your time or cost much”, sums up an increasing  way of understanding that the market has developed toward development of services on mobile.

Whether delivered via sms, mobile web or mobile application best practice requires that certain steps are followed, call it the application development lifecycle to ensure that the end product meets all requirements from functionality to aesthetics. Continue Reading…

Starting 2009, Kenya has been slowly emerging as a hotbed of innovation and differentiated thinking in matters technology. Numerous accolades and awards later, are we resting on our laurels?

I have in the past couple of months had the opportunity to interact on a day to day basis with many developers – from solo fliers to organized teams based in Nairobi. While it is a given that the town is awash with brilliant ideas, I think we need to increase the rate at which these ideas get into the market. The ideas and concepts need to be given the opportunity to stand on their own and scale, or fail and fail fast, to allow for the crucial pivot or a trip back to the drawing board. While the current growth in co-shared spaces has been a shot in the arm for a hither to ailing developer ecosystem, it may also create a cocoon of comfort that sees what I call continuous development in the pursuit of perfection. Continue Reading…

It is always interesting to hear discussions around emerging technologies or industries that seem to capture the minds of everyone; from your barber to the executive at a FMCG company. More often than not, if the discussion is based on mobile technology, a lot of assumptions are made as to who plays what role and where the opportunity lies.

At the very top of the mobile ecosystem is the regulator CCK – Communications Commission of Kenya who are in charge of issuing licenses to mobile network operators, premium rate service providers – PRSP’s and content providers. The different tiers of licensing attract varied fees with the current cost of the PRSP and content provider license standing at Ksh 100,000, on top of an application fee of Ksh.10, 000. The license fee is annual and from year two, it  is based on a percentage of revenue generated by your firm with the lower limit of Ksh.100,000. Continue Reading…

The fact that mobile is big in Africa is undeniable with more people seeking to understand how to  derive maximum value from this channel. What most seek to know is how to generate revenue from the various services that they can offer. To generate revenue, one must have the ability to bill for services and there are various ways of doing this.

Shortcodes
Shortcodes are 3-4 digit numbers that are availed by Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s) to Premium Rate Service Providers (PRSP’s) for purposes of setting up services.  At the time of setup, shortcodes are assigned billing bands which range from normal sms rates to premium rates of up to 100 shillings. Shortcodes don’t offer flexible billing and you must choose the best fit for your service. Shortcodes attract a monthly rental fee from the operators and may attract a premium one-off fee if the code is considered “golden”, such as an easy to remember 5544 for example.

Mobile operators usually reserve the use of 3 digit short-codes for network centric services. Continue Reading…

When thinking about reaching out to the mobile consumer, we tend to gravitate more to the obvious use of sms – either directly via bulk messaging or shortcode. There has been a market for hawking lists and databases locally that has seen many hapless Kenyans spammed silly with non – opt in, non targeted marketing material.

Email seems to have slipped to the back burner as many may not have noted mobile device manufactures adapt their devices and software to cater for mobile email.

That various social networks have over one million Kenyans registered; it very well means that there are the same number of active email addresses with real people behind them waiting to be engaged. The social networks have also primed consumers for alerts via email as practically all actions that occur on their platforms are communicated back via email.

However, the rules of engagement are not far off from what we have seen adopted for the more ubiquitous messaging channel that is sms. The key challenge with email, is that delivery may not be guaranteed and if delivered, it may not be opened by the target consumer. The obvious advantage of email over sms is the amount of information you can disseminate and the ease of retransmission of your message to the social graph.

So how do we ensure that email is plugged back to our consumer communications? Continue Reading…

A few years ago election monitoring and reporting was a tricky, tiring and often thankless affair. Dealing with Kenya‘s elections processes in the last decade, in particular, has largely involved sending hordes of polling clerks, election observers and monitors, with paper files stashed in their underarms, to far-flung areas to help record the goings-on election and referenda. Apart from being slow, unreliable and erratic, such processes have proved risky for election officials especially if violence broke out.

But things are changing. Mobile phone technology is rapidly transforming the way these national and other crucial life-changing activities are carried out, bringing with it faster, reliable and credible relay of information from outlying areas.
Apart from elections reporting, the ubiquitous device, owned by nearly 20 million Kenyans, has also helped stem incidents of violence that have in the past rocked various parts of Kenya notably in 2007 elections. A lot depends on how transparent such processes as elections are but the mobile phone is taking a lion’s share of the contribution toward this positive change.

In a ground-breaking project in conjunction with the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), Safaricom, Kenya’s largest network operator, the world’s leading mobile handsets-maker Nokia supplied over 18,000 Nokia 1680 phones to be used by the electoral body’s returning officers and clerks in various part of the country.

IIEC had picked Safaricom after, inviting Kenyan telecom operators for a partnership with it with the objective of running an efficient and credible referendum process. Continue Reading…

It may feel abit dumb to start off like this…but any kiosk owner will tell you this. If you all stock the same nyanya skuma, you will be left with no recourse but to compete on price. The kaching comes with setting yourself apart…I would stop here and have you call me and pay me to walk you back to the school of basics but am in a good mood today.

Like I told you before, you better stop this price war maneno or you will all soon go out of business or best bet see massive hemorrhages on your bottom line. Micheal Joseph has said time and again – he has investors to take care of, and I have to agree with him on that point, coz I would expect a divided on my shares, if I had bought like 1 million of those “papers” when the country was going green and this not alluding to the referendum. My boy Rene is willing to take a hit for the next 5 years because he has a big brother with deep pockets. Deep pockets get depleted, and if your strategy doesn’t work out, you will be out of a job – tail tucked and the Kenya operation will be spun to some other hapless investor with big visions and their head in the clouds, with grand plans of a turnaround.  Rene was on Business Daily explaining their strategy…you will remember the Vuka tariff that was discontinued…hmmm

Bwana Atul of Yu, jumped over the cliff late last night and put it out that they too had “amuad” and dunked prices to 5cts per second or more directly 3 bob per minute and 50cts per sms on onnet messaging.

Mickael Ghossein has been quiet thus far after the sparing between the Pinks, Greens and Blacks, but I kinda guess he too is thinking of their new lower price point. I am sorely hoping that his decisions will have a good measure of thought and not some knee jerk reflex. Continue Reading…

Technology doesn’t exist for its own sake, if it did, it would die a rather quick death from lack of adoption that would see it maintain relevance. Mobile has morphed into a lifestyle with many consumers not giving a second thought to the technology that powers it, not that they should anyway. But as it morphs into a lifestyle, it creates a new playground for interaction which many brands are yet to catch on, still basking in familiar old school methods of engagement.

The opportunity here is very real and would offer great benefits for the first mover.  Brands need to start developing and implementing mobile strategies if they are to engage their consumers on a personal level. The battle for mindshare and eventually consumer purses will be won by the brands that will offer truly compelling and personalized experiences. Continue Reading…

Zain Kenya has today lowered its calling charges across all networks by a whooping 50% – becoming the first mobile phone company in the country to pass to customers the benefit of the new low interconnect charges released by the Communication Commission of Kenya. The mobile phone company has lowered its callings charges to Kshs. 3 across all networks in Kenya for both its prepaid and postpaid customers in a move that abolishes completely the distinction between intra-network and cross-network calls costs.

SMS costs have also been lowered to Ksh. 1 across all networks in Kenya. In what is arguably the best value proposition ever launched in the Kenya telecommunications industry, Zain said the drastic reduction in calling charges would benefit its customers and those on other networks who are paying extremely high prices for making phone calls. With the lowering of the connectivity charges to a new low, Kenyans will now be in a position to switch mobile service providers while retaining their current numbers once the number portability directive comes into force. Continue Reading…