Reverse Data Billing Increases in South Africa with MTN and biNu Partnership

MTN and reverse data billing pioneer biNu have announced a partnership which will enable subscribers in South Africa to access websites and apps free.

Rather than using their own mobile data to visit and interact with sites or apps, MTN subscribers in South Africa can now have their data paid for by participating digital content and application owners, thanks to biNu’s pioneering reverse data billing model, known as #datafree.

MTN is offering biNu’s platform to its enterprise client base. By zero-rating their digital touchpoints, organisations will be able to expand their reach, increase engagement - and lower communication costs by moving customer engagement online from call centres and shops/branches.

Since launching its proprietary reverse billing service in August 2018, MTN has seen major take-up from organisations looking to increase their online engagement with consumers – in both the public and private sectors. By migrating to the biNu platform, MTN opens up a new revenue stream through the ability to offer free data services to users of other networks as biNu already has reverse billing agreements in place with South Africa’s other Mobile Network Operators - Cell C, as well as Telkom and Vodacom. biNu and MTN’s partnership provides organisations for the first time with a reverse billing platform across all networks with one point of contact for advice, support and billing.

Dr. Christian Wirtz, Executive Enterprise Operations and Solutions at MTN said “Reverse billing is now a proven model in South Africa. Once banks and universities decided to carry the data costs for their customers, early adopters saw a large increase in consumers using their online portals or banking services.

MTN, in partnership with biNu, now has an extremely sophisticated platform that enables organisations to nurture loyalty, make informed business decisions from data analytics and allows organisations to maximise their competitive advantage. The provision of #datafree apps and websites also supports MTN’s digital inclusion goals, which are also aligned to the Government’s focus on bridging the digital divide”.

biNu’s #datafree platform is already being used by a number of brands, commercial enterprises, public bodies and NGOs who need to reach and engage with a variety of different target audiences including employees, customers and prospects. It is also being used by commercial publishers looking to extend their audience reach and engagement with mobile consumers. Stephen Newton, CEO of biNu, said “We offer a unique solution that moves the cost of mobile data from consumers to the owners of the content. I am delighted that MTN will now be offering our platform to its enterprise customers who want to increase their digital interactions with people living and working in South Africa”.

Reverse Data Billing

Many emerging market operators are experiencing rapidly increasing levels of smartphone usage but without corresponding increases in mobile engagement. This is due to the data cost barrier, which reverse data billing seeks to address. Reverse data billing was first used by SMS services. It is sometimes compared to making a reverse charge voice call except that the data provider pays the user’s data costs for them.

As smartphone usage increases operators, governments and enterprises have identified the potential for reverse data billing in emerging markets. By transferring the cost of data from end users to data providers such as enterprises and governments, engagement levels can significantly increase.

Selected websites and mobile apps become ‘reverse-billed’, based on IP address and URL. Accessing the ‘reverse-billed’ content results in zero data cost for mobile subscribers. The cost of data used is aggregated and billed to the content provider.

A number of use cases have evolved for reverse billing following experience in countries including Nigeria and South Africa:

  • Employees: Field teams can be kept up to date, especially if not everyone has mobile data. Training and HR processes can be delivered reliably and efficiently.
  • Customers: Enables two way communications with clients, expands touch points and improves the efficiency of call centres while reducing costs.
  • Communities and membership groups: removes cost barriers, increases inclusivity and participation levels and delivers better governance.
  • Marketing and services: Connect better with your target audience, remove cost barriers and increase 24/7/365 availability.

Suppliers and operators have adopted different business models but typically reverse data billing services involve zero or limited long term commitment and up-front fees with the cost loaded onto the data charges. End users can also benefit from lower data fees charged by operators to their larger customers.

This flexibility makes reverse data billing attractive for short term promotions and for peak periods such as exam time at schools, colleges and universities, seasonal sales at retailers, and content giveaways, such as wallpapers and videos.

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