Harnessing the Trends in Prepaid Mobiles

Advancements within the industry have created a wealth of opportunities for prepaid mobile phone providers.

Activities such as shopping and gambling and, on the commercial side, advertising, have now become the norm as consumers and businesses alike embrace smartphone technology.


Professor Manuel Castells, a member of the United Nations technology committee, previously predicted that by the year 2014 the number of people accessing the internet via their mobile phone will outnumber those logging on by their home computer.

The key for prepaid mobile providers is understanding how these innovations can be utilized to adapt their produce portfolio and boost their bottom line.

Regional trends

For prepaid mobile providers to make the most out of the growth within the market, it is essential to understand the varying markets and trends to ultimately provide the consumer with what they want.

Prepaid services are of particular interest in those countries with less established mobile phone networks, for example in Botswana , where 98 percent of consumers operate on a prepaid system.

The three main mobile operators in the country each managed to attract 24,300 new clients between November 2009 and March 2010, and are now beginning to expand their presence further by investing in rural networks and handsets which are capable of supporting more than one sim card.

In contrast, in the UK, which has a highly developed mobile phone market, is experiencing something of a prepaid resurgence. Figures from Gfk for September 2010 revealed a 7 percent year-on-year growth within the prepay smartphone market.

Conrad Longmore, editor at Mobile Gazette, highlighted prepay customers in the UK are looking for phones which offer the same features as those on contracts, but at a lower cost.

"There seems to be a particular interest from consumers in inexpensive touchscreen phones with WiFi capabilities," Longmore said.

Mobile broadband is experiencing similarly huge growth in the Gulf region, where mobile subscriptions are set to top 300 million by the year 2014, with much of this again coming from the prepaid segment.

Matthew Reed, head of mobile research, Informa Telecoms and Media, told Gulf News: "New market entrants are making significant market share gains across the Mideast, prompting incumbent operators to accelerate the transformation of their businesses, to continue the search for new investment opportunities outside of the region and to invest in new network technologies such as Long-Term Evolution."

Market Changes and Recharge Innovations

Extending and improving recharging options for prepaid mobile phone users is a key way in which providers can increase spending from their subscribers.

This appears to be a particular focus within India, where changes are afoot within the mobile industry and efforts are underway to increase the number of rural residents using mobile phones.

The government recently announced mobile phone users in the Haryana region will soon be able to benefit from mobile number portability (MNP) for the first time, offering greater flexibility to consumers and increasing competition between service providers.

Such steps in the Asia-Pacific region were said to have had little effect in Singapore, Japan and Taiwan, although there was a boost to competition in Malaysia and Korea. Plans are also underway to introduce MNP in Nigeria, Serbia and China.

Mobikwik.com recently launched a new Dial-a-Recharge system in India, which will allow people to simply recharge their mobiles using number dials, rather than the keypad. The recharge store estimates, of the 600 million people in India, less than 50 million are capable of handling written or spoken English.

Less than 1 percent of key pads cater for local dialects.

"SMS is very popular in India, but still a majority of elderly and rural population find it difficult to use, especially because it is in English, Nikhil Narang, vice president of operations at mobikwik.com, said. "Dial-a-Recharge not only addresses these behavior patterns, but also sets the foundation for voice-powered m-commerce."