Like its predecessors, the 2017 edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) didn’t fail to impress. Over 108,000 visitors gathered in Barcelona to air and share their views on the likely future of the global telecom space. That being said, it was business as usual. The who’s who of the sector put their heads together to discuss the modalities of deliveries, including specific roadmaps, deployment models and investment challenges.

In a nutshell, all discussions were centred on three pillars-investment, innovation and intelligence. It doesn’t stop there of course, but, for the sake of simplicity, I shall focus upon trends that are relevant to our business.

Mobile Money: A decade and Still Going Strong

It would be an understatement to say that mobile money has come a long way, from the 2007 launch of M-Pesa in Kenya.

To illustrate, as per GSMA’s State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money: The Decade Edition 2006-2016, a survey undertaken by the Financial Access Initiative in 2009 revealed that 2.5 billion adults globally were unbanked. Cut to 2016-as per the same report, mobile money is available in two-thirds of low-and-middle-income countries, as of December 2016. Quite a jump, this!

This theme, needless to say, took centre stage at the MWC this year. Various stakeholders-from the bigwigs to those just about starting their journey-announced ambitious plans to enhance their mobile money portfolios. The end game? To ensure an optimum customer experience and continuity of mobile money services, of course!

Visa and MasterCard Take the Lead

It is an interesting fact that when it comes to mobile payments, MasterCard and Visa can’t be too far from the discussions. Needless to say, MWC was no exception. Visa chose this platform to announce its plans of expanding its global payment capabilities. The finance major’s mVisa QR-based payments service is set to expand its global footprint. The aim is simple-to provide simple and secure point-of-sale and e-commerce transactions. The company challenged start-ups to bring digital payments into the realm of Internet of Things, with the expansion of its Everywhere initiative to Europe.

Meanwhile, MasterCard made quite a splash with the announcement of its tie-up with Oracle. The partnership is aimed at enhancing the features of the former’s retail and restaurant-based applications. This is, needless to say, aimed at enhancing the end-user’s experience.


Chatbots: Coming Soon!

Another interesting revelation uncovered at MWC 2017 was that chatbots are waiting in the wings. Permit me to explain-it is no secret that commerce is steadily increasing its influence on messaging platforms. Why? Well, because brands have woken up to the fact that constant customer engagement is an important ingredient to success. Naturally, then, technology players are going full throttle on creating a platform for e-commerce and on monetizing their subscriber bases.

There is a catch, though. Chatbots, indeed, are chock-full of potential. However, issues related to easy and secure integration of payments is the roadblock. This is why conversational commerce is yet to surprise us (the industry).

Net, net, these are interesting times for the global telecom space. Well, on paper, at least. It remains to be seen how many of these trends fare well in the real world. Bets, anyone?

Srinivas Nidugondi

Srinivas Nidugondi

Srinivas, Chief Operating Officer - Mobile Financial Solutions, has over 17 years of experience in various industries including financial services, payments and commerce in a variety of business and product related roles and most...