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Shifting Focus to VAS for Effective Service Delivery

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Service providers in the telecom industry have come to realize that oftentimes the ability to compete hinges on successfully deploying what are known as “value-added services.” The trick is to figure out what type of value can be added that will be truly useful and enticing to customers.
 The necessity of value-added services spills over into the newer realm of VoIP, where technology exists to offer more at a competitive price, but providers don’t always know just what to add or how.
There is more to telecommunication than voice service which has dominated the Nigeria’s telecom industry since the introduction of Global system for Mobile communication (GSM). The long years of suffering by Nigerians for basic communication has almost made it unnecessary for Nigerian subscribers to avail themselves of other value added services that telecom operators offer.
Investigations revealed that many Nigerian GSM and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) users feel their phones are only for voice call and nothing else. This partly accounts for network congestion being experienced on networks. It would be recalled that GSM operators have faced sanctions from Nigerian Communications Commission on poor service delivery, though there are issues of capacity on the networks, but if subscribers avail themselves of other means of communication on the technology the frequent hiccups on networks will be reduced.
A Value-Added Service (VAS) is a telecommunication term for non-core-services or, in short, all services beyond standard voice calls. On a conceptual level, value-added services add value to the standard services offering, spurring the subscribers to use their phones more and allowing the operators to drive up their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU).
For mobile phones, apart from short message service (SMS), there are also services such as multi-media service (MMS) that enables subscribers to send pictures via General Package Radio Service (GPRS) which gives them access to internet from their mobile phones among others.
Value-added services are supplied either in-house by the mobile network operators themselves or by a third party, known as value added service provider (VASP). VASPs typically connect to the operator using protocols like Short Message Peer-to-peer Protocol (SMPP), connecting either directly to the Short Message Service Centre (SMSC) otherwise known as ‘short code’ or, increasingly, to a messaging gate way that allows the operator to control and charge for the content better.
The aforementioned situation seem to be changing as virtually all the operators in the country’s telecom industry have come to market with one value-added service or the other, as well following it up with advertisement.
MTN is currently advertising most of its value added service as against mass market promos. Some of its VAS includes MTN Google SMS, a mini version of Google search via SMS, where no internet connectivity is required. In this case, the search is keyword-based. Google SMS can give definition of words, News headlines, Sports information; and so on via SMS. Google SMS is also available through MTN Sim Plus.
MTN 3.5G Video Calling is an exciting VAS service which gives subscribers clear visual communication on their 3G enabled handsets which are enablers for video telephony.
Video calling is as simple as voice calling. However, the only difference is that the user will have to press the video call button instead of the voice call button. Then, hold the phone in front of you to watch the screen. It is possible for you to turn off the camera if you prefer not to be seen.
C-Track: this is a unique vehicle tracking and stolen vehicle recovery service that allows subscribers keep track of the location of their vehicles from the comfort of their mobile phones. By simply sending a text message, subscribers can ensure they are immediately alerted if their vehicle is moved – regardless of whether the ignition is on or off.
MTN C-track uses proven GPS/GSM technology in conjunction with an on-board computerized system to easily locate vehicles, measure vehicle performance and driver productivity, thus providing effective operational control and peace of mind to vehicle owners. Other VAS from MTN are SaveMyContacts, MTN Flash, Callertunez which enables subscriber to choose any ringtone of choice and mobile television.
Globacom has as well rolled out several value added services to the delight of its subscribers among them is Magic Plus, an SMS based service that gives the subscriber access to a host of information, commerce and entertainment content (ICE) directly on his Glo Mobile handset at the touch of a button. It is simple, quick and easy to use.
There is also Glo m-banking which is available exclusively on the Glo magic plus menu. This unique service provides all Glo mobile customers swift and easy access to their bank accounts from their mobile phones anywhere within Glo coverage area.
For the first time in Nigeria, one single application provides one with a uniform interface to a multitude of Banks. This is the result of Globacom’s collaboration with Interswitch Limited and its member banks.
Zain has also introduced unique value added service for its subscribers; they include fax services, Zain mobile office, GPRS services, callertunez among others.
Interestingly, there has been an increased attention by operators to launch and marketing of VAS as against what use to be the case two years ago when such services are not considered for advertisement.
This change of focus from voice to VAS industry watchers said could be attributed to competition. They said, there are a lot of telecom operators delivering voice which makes it not attractive to a subscriber, but rather they need service that will enhance their work or living standard, which is what VAS seek to achieve.
PTOs are not left behind in the craze to launch value-added services. Many PTOs are reported to have launched internet service, made possible by there upgrade to EV-DO Rev A. This technology afford operators the opportunity of competing with operators using 3G in the GSM space in terms of value added services.
Unlike voice calls, network operators find it difficult to disclose the cost of most value added services such as GPRS. Fola Odufunwa, managing director, eShekels, said billing clarity is crucial for success of VAS adding that subscribers need to know precisely what the cost benefits are, otherwise, such situation will constitute a barrier to adoption of these services by many people.
Moreover, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations revealed that Glo mobile charges 60 kobo per kilo byte while MTN chargesN75 per kilo byte download. Both networks charge 10k per second for accessing GPRS services.
Odufunwa said value added services is still very much sub-optimized in Nigeria, which means that subscribers are getting much less value than is potentially derivable. This, he blamed on Nigeria’s peculiar situation that emphasizes more on voice.
But according to him, most Nigeria telecom operators are short sighted as far as VAS is concerned. For instance, in the Philippines, VAS contributes as much as 40 percent to telecom operators’ revenue. Telecom operators in that country actually put deliberate measures in place to help popularize VAS and today, they are reaping the benefits.
Gbenga Adebayo, chief executive officer, CNSS, commended the new development which according to him is designed to grow the network as well as a sign that the market is beginning to mature.
He emphasized the need for operators to have the required technical support for such services while stressing that there is need for operators offering GPRS to advertise the tariff they charge for such services to encourage the subscribers.
Operators can also learn to be more tactical with their pricing. In the Philippines, for example, SMS was free for up to one year after telecos launched the service. This helped to make SMS in the Philippines popular, people send more SMS in that country than anywhere else in the world. Also, operators should not just launch a service for the ego benefits.
In Nigeria, it seems that operators are keener on launching VAS as prestige projects which are not necessarily followed through with the right level of customer education and marketing to make them outstanding successes in the market place.
Industry analysts while applauding the current shift to VAS, believed that operators could make far more revenues and profits from VAS than they are currently doing despite the dominance of voice, if only they would accord VAS the right level of attention and support.
Now that the major GSM and CDMA operators have upgraded their networks to 3G capability, it is the hope of subscribers that more VAS be launched by operators in the market.

 

 


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Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

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The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), has started to broadcast a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signal over Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI), providing its first open service in the region via NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite managed and operated the by Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd., under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

This early open service is provided as part of the programme, which pursues the autonomous provision SBAS services in Africa, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.

With improved accuracy to within a meter, and boosted integrity, availability, and continuity of safety-related applications, these SBAS services will improve flight safety and efficiency in Africa, and also benefit the economy in many areas as land, sea, and rail transport, as well as mass-market applications, supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development.

The launched open service essentially aims to carry-out technical trials, and to undertake partner airlines field demonstrations for aircraft and rotorcraft, to demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024. It will also include early Precise Point Positioning (PPP), and emergency warning service to populations, which performance will be proven through other demonstrations.

The signal-in-space is generated by a dedicated system tested, developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” preliminary design phase, financed by the European Union, and awarded to Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 per cent), and Leonardo (33 per cent).

The “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” is based on the European EGNOS (1) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), acting under the delegation of the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency GSA.

The system prototype uses as reference stations the SAGAIE network deployed by CNES and ASECNA with the support of Thales Alenia Space.

The signal is broadcasted via the SBAS payload on NigComSat 1R GEO satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite, and an uplink station deployed in Abuja, Nigeria.

It is compliant to the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the minimum operational performance standard developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) organisation.

It will be visible in the whole of Africa and the Indian Ocean, up to the West Australian coast, and also in Europe.

Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director/chief executive officer of NIGCOMSAT, said: “we are proud to be part of this ambitious program to provide satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region. The use of our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to broadcast the first signal will be Africa’s premier contribution to SBAS as a regional satellite-based augmentation system for the continent.”

On his part, Benoit Broudy, vice president, Navigation Business at Thales Alenia Space in France, said the longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe, and KASS SBAS in Korea, combined with the new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies make Thales Alenia the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently.

“The equatorial region represents also a key engineering challenge for such a system due to difficult ionosphere conditions, for which Thales Alenia Space has developed a proven solution,” he stated.

Mohamed Moussa, director-general of ASECNA, said the provision of the first African SBAS early service is a crucial major step forward in the development of satellite navigation in the AFI region, and in the deployment of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa.

He said: “It demonstrates the ambition and commitment of ASECNA to enhance air navigation safety for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”


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ipNX, USTDA Ink Partnership Deal to Develop Nigeria’s ICT Infrastructure

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ipNX, Nigeria’s pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed a partnership deal that will further support the development of Nigeria’s ICT and broadband infrastructure and help ipNX expand its fibre-optic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt.

A virtual signing ceremony that signalled the beginning of this far reaching relationship between the two parties was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.

Through this innovative initiative, the USTDA is supporting ipNX to promote inclusive, secure and sustainable connectivity across the nation.

The agreements were made possible as a result of several engagements between the USTDA delegation to Nigeria and the leadership of ipNX; and will advance the goals of the recently updated Nigerian Broadband Plan.

At the Signing Ceremony, Ejovi Aror, group managing director of ipNX, said: “We believe that world-class connectivity and broadband internet access will be pivotal to the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

‘We are very positive that this project will play a crucial role in making our belief a reality.”

Aror added that with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for a vibrant ICT sector has never been stronger and the new partnership will bring ipNX a step closer to achieving its mission to continually leverage technology to create innovative solutions that help mankind thrive, while making a crucial impact to the lives of Nigerians across the country.

Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, said’ “These projects will support the development of Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure and help to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

“The U.S. Government has committed significant resources to improving telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria and this support is crucial as we believe that investment in critical ICT projects will strengthen the resiliency outlined in Nigeria’s economic sustainability plan.”

Also present at the virtual event, the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Bako Wakil, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said: “The support this grant will provide to the telecommunications sector, in particular broadband, is in line with the National Digital Strategy and the National Broadband Plan.

“The NCC would like to congratulate ipNX as it shows the company’s integrity and commitment to be selected for this grant”.

ipNX also revealed that it intends to continue to work with USTDA beyond the preliminary stage, to execute many more projects into the future that will bring about the digital transformation and socio-economic development of major cities in Nigeria in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.

With their partnership, both parties fully agree that further development of the nation’s broadband infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential promised by Nigeria’s digital economy.

According to the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report’ released in 2019, Broadband is a key enabler to harness the digital economy transformation and high-speed broadband has the potential to accelerate Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

 


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Manfa, ANSICTA Boss Pledges to Collaborate with NITDA for Establishment of Zonal Office in Anambra State

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Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA) has hinted that they are ready to collaborate with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) for the establishment of the agency’s South-East Zonal office in the State.

 

He stated this when he led ANSICTA delegation to NITDA’s head office in Abuja recently.

 

Mr Manfa explained that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”

Dr Vincent Vincent Olatunji, Director E-Government and Regulation NITDA receiving an award on behalf of the DG from Theo Manafa MD ANSICTA

He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.

 

He requested NITDA’s partnership with ANSICTA in building an ICT Hub in Anambra State; hosting a NITDA regional office; hosting NITDA events and programs as a State and region; trainings and Skills development programs of NITDA where the State hopes to train 40,000 residents in the next 2 years in Digital skills; establishment of cooperation on the Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and the provision of the Unity Board where 150 units were requested for a program for secondary schools in Anambra.

 

ANSICTA also presented an award to the Director General for his “Outstanding Achievements in Driving theDigital Economy” which was received by Dr. Vincent Olatunji on behalf of the DG.

 

Dr. Olatunji responded along with comments from some of the Directors and said NITDA would be glad to cooperate with the State.

L-R: Theo Manafa, MD/CEO of ANSICTA, Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, DG of NITDA and Michael Orekyeh, COO of ANSICTA

He said it was gratifying to note that Anambra State now has an ICT Agency as Gov Willie Obiano had visited NITDA 6 years ago and the agency had worked with the State in developing an ICT policy for Anambra.

 

The success of that exercise is the take off of the agency (ANSICTA) which is the execution arm of the policy developed by NITDA.

 

He further said ANSICTA was by the speech of its MD really in tune with the affairs and mandates of NITDA and stated that ANSICTA should make a formal application for the things requested at this meeting will be looked into by Management for approval by the Director General.

 

He also thanked ANSICTA for recognizing the hard work of the DG through the award they presented, which he said was most encouraging.

Michael Orekyeh; chief operating officer of ANSICTA was part of the delegation from Anambra State. while the Director General of NITDA, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was represented by the Director E-Government and Regulation, Dr. Vincent Olatunji; Director Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship – OIIE, Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Sambo Magaji; Deputy Director of IT Infrastructure, Dr. Saidu Kumo; SA Technical to the DG, Dr. Mohammed Yahaya; Corporate Strategy Department, Dr. Taofik Yekini and other Directors and Key Management Staff.

 

 

 


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