Orange expands mobile money to airtime

Orange is tapping what it claims is a growing market for airtime transfer with an international service allowing users to add credit to their own phone or that of a relative.
The International Airtime Hub connects operators to a global network of partners to enable subscribers to top up their accounts while abroad, via the Internet or in a local point of sale. It works by linking operators and distributors sending the payment to receivers in the country where the subscriber is located.
Orange states the hub model means all aspects of the transfer are covered, including billing, exchange rate variations, customer service and fraud protection. Alexandre Pébereau, executive VP of Orange’s international carrier operations believes the service will be particularly useful in emerging markets, and will help it achieve the goals of a five-year plan initiated in 2010.
Pébereau said the service “is a great opportunity for people in emerging countries and their relatives abroad to communicate more. Conquering this type of high-potential market is perfectly aligned with our international development strategy.”
The firm’s view is backed up by existing mobile money transfer services from the likes of Western Union that allow migrant workers to send cash to the mobile phones of relatives in their home countries, or mobile money services that offer users the ability pay utility and other bills from their handset.
Emerging markets are a key hunting ground for mobile money services due to the high proportion of un-banked users, however Orange’s hub set-up could also pick up customers in developed regions who regularly travel abroad.
Orange already offers a money transfer service in several African countries.