Nokia and Airtel have partnered to provide Nokia Life Services, Xpress Browser and Nokia Store Operator Billing to Airtel customers in Africa, starting with Nigeria and Kenya.
Nokia Life Services is a SMS based service providing information on education, agriculture, healthcare, livelihood and spirituality. This service is already available in Nigeria, and is now being extended to the East African market starting with Kenya. Since its launch in India, Nokia claims to now provide this service in 18 local languages across several countries, covering more than 95 million people.
Nokia Xpress Browser essentially provides Internet access with low data consumption on feature phones, largely targeting Nokia Asha phone customers in Nigeria and Kenya who may be using internet for the first time on their devices. Note that at the end of the quarter ending on December 31, 2012, Airtel had announced the launch of 3G in 13 African countries.
Nokia Store Operator Billing: With the launch of this service, Airtel customers in Nigeria and Kenya will be able to download local and global application from Nokia’s store and pay for it as part of their monthly post-paid bill or deduct it from their pre-paid credit balance in local currency. Currently, customers can only use their credit cards to buy apps which are chargeable in international currency, and with the integration of telco billing, Nokia will help developers monetize better (because of ease of transaction), and hence create a situation wherein developers will be encouraged to create apps specifically for local markets.
Bharti Airtel currently operates in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo B, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Niger, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. It also offers 3G services in 13 countries including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Congo B, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Madagascar, among others. Airtel plans to build a tower company and a brand in all these 17 countries.
For the quarter ending, Airtel had reported total revenues of Rs 6,169 crore and a net loss of Rs 520 crore from all its operations put together in the African continent. The company had reported to have 61.69 million subscribers in Africa as of December 2012. In 2013, Airtel plans to grow its top line faster and also cover their cash cost from all the investment including acquisition interest.
It is worth noting that in March 2013, Airtel acquired another 13.36% stake in its subsidiary in Nigeria increasing its total stake in the company to 79.1%.