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MTN launches Cloud ‘brokerage’

MTN is going live with its bouquet of Cloud services, following a trial in six of its major markets across Africa.

The operator launched the MTN Cloud pilot project in December last year, targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. MTN says the pilot made it “the first mobile network operator in Africa to adopt the Cloud Service Brokerage model””.

This approach entails the centralisation of access to services where a third party, in this case MTN, acts as the single point of contact for customers. The focus is on convenience, as centralising access to services eases the administrative burden for businesses, where instead of dealing with multiple service providers, they now deal with one.

Executive for MTN’s Group Enterprise Business Unit, Farhad Khan, says the response to the MTN Cloud trial was positive.

‚””What the pilot project confirmed is that our offerings are on the mark. There is great appetite for ICT solutions that are relevant, customised and affordable. SMEs are looking to technology service providers such as MTN to bring them world-class tools that improve their business efficiencies. MTN Cloud offers exactly that.‚””

MTN will be going live with MTN Cloud in Ghana and Nigeria on Wednesday April 10, with other markets to follow later in the year.

MTN Cloud offers an impressive list of services. As part of the trial, participating companies were offered access to Office Desktop, a cost-effective email and collaborative software, Mozypro, a back-up service for the effective management of files and servers, and Dialcom, an on-demand video conferencing offering.

Also on offer were McAfee, a popular anti-virus and anti-spam security software, Averiware, used for companies’ HR, accounting, finance and sales force automation needs, and Microsoft SharePoint, a staff and cross functional collaborative tool. This is in addition to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a customer relations management tool.

The most popular of the MTN Cloud solutions during the trial were Averiware, MozyPro Online Backup, and McAfee SaaS.

Companies that participated in the pilot ranged from SMEs in the IT, manufacturing and hospitality sectors in Ghana to those in media and advertising in Nigeria.

‚””MTN is optimistic about the uptake of MTN Cloud. Our focus as MTN is to contribute to the development of enterprises and the sustainable growth of economies, and SMEs are key economic growth drivers in most of our markets.‚””

In line with the new commercial offering, business customers will receive a 30-day trial of MTN Cloud. Customers who subscribe to MTN Cloud, through MTN Business, in the different markets, will also be able to pay for services using airtime. Plans are also underway to enable businesses to utilise MTN Mobile Money to pay for MTN Cloud services. Payment will be effected in the local currency of the participating market.

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Telcos want one face

The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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