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Mobile subscribers in poor countries seek multiple profiles to suit daily needs

Demand for multiple mobile profiles presents sizeable opportunities for operators that are addressing the demand in both developing and developed markets, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

The telecoms report: ‘Multiple Mobile Identities Strategies: Dual-SIM Phones, Virtual Numbers and Offers for Travellers’,  takes an in-depth look at three main approaches that the operators use — dual-SIM handsets, traveller offers and virtual numbers — to address the market.

This insider presents case studies of operators, including Airtel and Tigo Rwanda, as well as the pure plays Movirtu and OneSimCard, examining how these different market participants approach the multiple mobile identities opportunity.

“The dual-SIM handset market is of course dominated by the handset manufacturers and includes both feature phones and smartphones,” said PR analyst Ousmane Yatera.

Tigo Rwanda tried to address this market but did not have much success. The traveller market is fragmented, with a lot of pure plays that try to be innovative in their offers.

Apart from Airtel with its “one network” approach, few operators have provided a convenient and affordable offer for travelers.

The purchase of a local SIM card remains a common option, as does getting an international package from one’s operator, but those offerings don’t address the two main problems –affordability and convenience.

According to Yatera, the virtual numbers market is fragmented, with many pure plays and few operators.

“The multiple mobile identities market is characterised by many different pure plays, but no one has succeeded in standing out from the crowd, and operators have started offering services that address the problems that increasingly lead mobile phone users to adopt multiple mobile identities,” he noted.

PR has found that in emerging markets, using more than one SIM is common and is mainly driven by bargain hunting.

In Botswana, for instance, the number of subscriptions reached 152 percent of the population in 2012, even though only 66 percent of the population used mobile phones, meaning that most mobile users held more than one SIM card.

As for developed markets, PR said people there are trying to find a way of using their mobile phones affordably when they travel and often have a second number for the sake of convenience.

“Everywhere, mobile subscribers are increasingly adopting multiple mobile profiles, and operators are beginning to respond to user needs with new and innovative products and services,” the study concluded.

Generally, in developed markets, a strategy of supplementing existing services with value-added services was used most widely, while users in developing markets would be more sensitive to offers that can improve their daily lives.


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