Telecommunication APIs (application programming interfaces) are heralding in the age of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in South Africa. The impact this will have on the business environment is significant, says Rudi Barnard, director at SIM card management company Flickswitch International.
“While the concept of the telco API is not new, the market is shifting to one where the service provider model is no longer good enough. This is resulting in telecoms operators looking for value beyond the supply chain. We now live in a world where financial institutions are evolving into MVNOs as a way to diversify operations and capitalise on the customers they have with a more complete value proposition,” says Barnard.
Beyond financial services, the retail industry is also one that is ripe for an explosion in MVNOs in South Africa.
“All the large retailers that have an established footprint and a significant amount of customers who are loyal to the brand, can potentially embrace becoming an operator. Being able to leverage an existing distribution platform makes it cost-effective to become an MVNO. And given how prepaid is a massive market in South Africa, it becomes incredibly easy for a company to manage their mobile customers thanks to the customisability of APIs and their ability to integrate into systems.”
In fact, the cost control benefits of prepaid make it a natural fit for an MVNO. But irrespective of the strategy or project, it all boils down to having access to a telco API. Without this, there can be no self-service, no customisability, and no expense management.
“The benefits of telco APIs are not limited to MVNOs. Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) can also take advantage of prepaid SIM management to save on costs. After all, you can only use the data and airtime loaded on a prepaid SIM card, unlike a contract which can cause severe bill shock at the end of the billing cycle,” says Barnard.
When prepaid SIM cards are integrated with an API, there is potential for real-time visibility of how much each employee is spending and the usage on each device in the field whether a smartphone, tablet, or machine-to-machine system.
“Having access to enabling tools to do this is a matter of finding a trusted partner who takes the time to understand your business requirements. The service provider also needs to have experience in customising APIs and ensuring there is a smooth fit into existing business processes. Once this is done, the potential really is only limited by the imagination of the organisation,” concludes Barnard.