|Latin America 2010
|SMS and voice convergence in Latin America
|VP Sales for the CALA region
|Movius (Service Provider) global leader in value-added communication solutions for service providers
Ronaldo Venci is the VP of Sales for the CALA region at Movius; he has more than 20 years’ professional industry experience in the region. Prior to Movius, Mr Venci held senior management positions with EDS, IBM, BellSouth International, Lucent and VeriSign. Mr Venci was also a partner at Celta Consult, a CALA focused consulting company. Ronaldo Venci earned an Executive MBA in General Management from the International Management Business School São Paulo, a MSc in Finance and Administration from Fundação Getulio Vargas and a BS in Mathematics and Computer Sciences.
Voice, however saturated and commoditised, with SMS close behind are the keystones of Latin American operators’ business models. New voice and SMS applications using existing infrastructure require little investment to drive new profits. Voice/voicemail- to- text via SMS solutions are ideal in this market where, often, people simply call briefly, or SMS, to ask people to call them back. Since a growing number of people in the region only have mobile phones, there is growing demand for handsets with multiple numbers.
New voice applications based upon the highly popular, omnipresent, SMS services in Latin America, could be a new source of quick profits. Requiring little investment, it is ideal for carriers looking for a return on their existing investment in networks as the region moves forward to 3G and 4G. Voice, however saturated and under pressure of commoditization, is still king in the region and SMS follows closely behind, but with a very different use profile with each carrier and country. In a part of the world, which now has more than 500 million mobile users, carriers are looking at new ways to exploit the success of SMS with similar applications. One of the drivers for this trend is the rise of the iPhone, which has an embedded visual voicemail application. While some people are adverse to retrieving or leaving voicemail messages, visual voicemail has made voicemail a more user-friendly way to communicate. Another application, that has proved popular, in much the same way as SMS, is voice (and voicemail) to text solutions. Unlike past offerings, where human intervention was often needed to convert voice to text, recent technologies are fully automated and therefore more cost-effective and faster. The beauty of the newer services is that one can receive a voicemail to text message in a SMS format and reply via an SMS. There is no need to actually place a call back, so the process is much quicker, less expensive and less intrusive – especially when the other party is unavailable or busy. Features like this are very important in Latin America, because 90 per cent of the market is pre-pay and CPP (calling party pays) predominates. The ARPSs (average revenue per subscriber) are among the lowest in the world, at around 10 to 15 US dollars, since users tend to use the cheapest possible ways to communicate; often they simply call briefly and ask people to call them back! This is why SMS is ideal. The many ways you can leverage SMS in a voice – and the soon-to-be widespread 3G world, have made carriers think more deeply about ways to keep their subscribers by offering more convenient and user-friendly ways to communicate. Innovative call completion alternatives, such as those that build on the popularity of SMS, will be important priorities for carriers because they take advantage of the large, existing, investments carriers have made in recent years just to keep up with the growth in voice and data traffic. Similarly, now that the wireless penetration in many markets is now over 100 per cent, wireless carriers can offer subscribers the possibility to use more than one phone number on a single handset, without having to resort to double SIM solutions. People carry more than one handset for a variety of reasons: Business Users – Mobile’s early adopters were the business travellers who needed an easy way to communicate while on the go. The use of mobile by business has expanded due to today’s global, 24-hour business environment. The expanded workday makes separating business and personal life difficult, since individuals must be accessible all day, every day. Entrepreneur – Many entrepreneurs and small business owners actually run multiple small businesses. An example would be the car salesman who also owns a couple of rental properties. When his phone rings he cannot tell if it is someone seeking a new car or a renter calling to explain why this month’s rent will be late; he gets interrupted regardless. He must respond to all calls with equal priority. Multi-Lifestyles – Most people have different priorities for each of their personal contacts – not all have the same importance – and would like the ability to segment their personal lives. A father will give greater importance to a call from his children because they need a ride home than a friend who just calls to chat about last night’s game. Currently, though, all calls are likely to come into one number and the consumer’s only means to segment the calls is via screening the caller ID. All these are examples of why having multiple phones seems so necessary. Since the number of landlines is falling drastically around the world, the number of people requiring multiple mobile lines seems likely to increase significantly. In 2009 for example, North America, Europe and Asia Pacific all saw a decrease in landline penetration per household. In the US, a recent study by the Yankee Group reported that 28 per cent of respondents did not even have a landline phone. This well-documented trend in individuals dropping their landline is a consequence of growing consumer reliance on their mobile device as their exclusive telephone. While the mobile phone has made connecting to individuals much simpler because a mobile phone is almost always with its owner, it has created a new issue. The underlying problem, as outlined above, is that many types of mobile users do not necessarily want to be available to all callers at all times. Therefore the mobile phone often presents a dilemma; although in some respects mobile phones make life simpler they also introduce new complications. People have multiple roles and personas that they prefer to keep separated. We do not need a detailed study to show that carrying multiple phones is inconvenient and expensive. It is much simpler and convenient to have multiple phone numbers on a single mobile device – and the market seems to agree. A recent US-based study by Frost & Sullivan shows that more than 60 per cent of individuals with multiple phones would like to be able to have multiple phone numbers on a single device. To be successful phones with multiple numbers would need: • Multiple billing options; • Separate voicemail boxes; • Ability to control the service by turning individual lines off – and automatically forward to a separate voicemail – and back on as desired; • Ability to out-dial as well as receive calls from second numbers; and • Ability to receive and send text messages associated with the second number A recently announced entry in this market is the Side-LineSM service that Telefonica plans to roll out in 12 Latin American countries. Side-Line allows multiple numbers on a single phone. With this service, calls placed to each number are uniquely identified so the subscriber knows for which phone the call was targeted. While calls to the second number can be directed to an existing mobile phone the subscriber can also change their settings so that these calls are forwarded instead to a personal, voice-messaging system. SMS notifications of new messages received are sent to the primary mobile phone so the subscriber is aware they have a message waiting even if they are only watching one of their numbers. These SMS messages include details on who called, when they called and the length of the message. The subscriber can click on the link in the message to listen to the message. After listening to a message, subscribers can decide whether to call the person back. So, whether we are talking about a basic user who wishes to keep their outgoing costs to a minimum – or the advanced user who merely wants to simplify their lives – SMS and voice applications are at the very heart of this vibrant and expanding market. Latin America’s carriers are already using the latest networks and providing devices to take advantage of the facilities they provide. It will be interesting to see during the next few years how a combination of services like SMS and multiple line device capability will help carriers build revenue while helping users with the sort of communication that best suits their needs and budgets.