MTN, Africa's largest mobile operator, picked U.S.-based ItsOn to help it increase subscriber numbers through the launch of new mobile services.
ItsOn provides a cloud-based service and marketing platform for mobile operators and said last year it planned to launch its service internationally after winning deals with operators in the Middle East and South America.
In December, the company raised $12.5 million (€11.5 million) in a Series D funding round to finance construction of global data centres to support market launches in South America, Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The MTN deal thus represents a major win for the U.S. company. The group has 230 million mobile users throughout Africa and the Middle East and now wants to attract new smartphone users through the deployment of the ItsOn platform.
Albert Fernandez, group chief consumer officer of MTN, said the operator is seeing an "untapped base of new smartphone users with a growing appetite for new services and digital content" as it expands into emerging markets.
"We want to make it easier for our customers to access these services and content, act on contextual offers and purchase new goods directly from their device," Fernandez said.
MTN initially plans to launch consumer services based on the ItsOn technology in South Africa, and expects eventually to expand to other countries.
Established around seven years ago, ItsOn has developed a platform that enables operators to try out new product and service ideas; launch new and contextually relevant services; test marketing tactics; and offer self-service tools for subscribers.
MTN will use ItsOn to increase subscriber numbers and revenue by selling enhanced mobile connection services and new digital content "through a personalised and affordable on-device commerce experience."
ItsOn noted that this is particularly important "because while mobile phones are now prevalent in Africa, large data plans are not and custom plans are often the best way to get people onto the mobile web."
Speaking to FierceWireless:Europe at TM Forum Live in June last year, Robert Oberhofer, ItsOn's vice president of product marketing, said mobile operator CMOs tend to be highly receptive to the technology, while CIOs can be more sceptical. This is primarily because the adoption of the platform requires a complete shift in mindset about how to launch and manage services.
"There is a traditional way of buying solutions," said Oberhofer. "We don't fit in with the way they are used to."
However, if mobile operators are to succeed in becoming more agile players that continue to have relevance in future, non-traditional thinking is clearly required.
"We want to be a value-added service for digital transformation," said Oberhofer. "We want to be part of the digital process."
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