BMI-TechKnowledge has brought out a new report entitled Mobile Data Applications for Financial Services and Related Sectors, which includes mobile operators, Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs), and content service providers. 

Tertia Smit, telecoms analyst and author of the report, says that in terms of BMI-T’s conservative forecast scenario, total mobile operator data revenues will grow from R2,1-billion (4,8% of revenue) in 2004 to R5,1-billion (8,2% of revenue) by 2008.
“If market demand is stimulated at a faster rate, data may top 10% of operator revenues by 2008; this excludes revenues earned by independent WASP and CSPs,” says Smit.
Despite its obvious data utility, the killer application on 3G networks will most probably be voice communication, with resultant impact on network quality and dramatically reduced prices of voice calls.
Currently, the lack of an established 3G handset installed base in South Africa is a barrier to mass-market uptake for data applications – although many business and “early-adopter” individuals will be able to justify the cost of purchasing handsets and PC data cards.
“Business application uptake, particularly in financial services, generally lag behind the ‘application push’ from telecoms and technology players while mobile operators and WASPs are increasingly offering m-commerce applications threatening to leapfrog financial services institutions, moving into the payments and stored value arenas in the process.
“Concerns about issues such as security and ROI, as well as the existence of legacy systems all also result in slower adoption of some applications among the banks,” adds Smit.
Mobile data application like CRM, collaboration and banking in the financial sector are evaluated in detail. Slow mobile banking adoption by customers, in turn, is seen to be mainly a product of the inherent limitations of the mobile platform.
The main reasons cited are: low speed/bandwidth; the limitations of the standard cellular phone user interface; complexity of the mobile banking application; and security concerns.
There are currently about 160 000 registered mobile banking users (as apposed to 1,4-million Internet banking users) and some banks report that only a small percentage of those who have registered for the mobile banking service actually use this channel.
Other than P2P messaging, consumer applications still largely drive the mobile data market, with handset personalisation and other content downloads, especially ringtones dominating.
The youth market currently drives this trend – highlighting opportunities for growth in certain types of early adopter applications that may be considered in financial services and other related sectors.
Increased competition and co-operation between the telecommunications and financial sectors such as the recent alliances entered into between MTN and Standard Bank and Vodacom and Absa will add further impetus to the growth of mobile data revenues in the consumer and business market.