Fun factor is the magic for MobileOne

Although MobileOne is facing an impending takeover bid now, it’s still business as usual for the telecom operator that prides itself on its services and innovation. From an upstart back in 1996, M1 has grown into a major player in its own right, grabbing 35% market share and profitability within 21 months of commencing operations.

Neil MontefioreAlthough MobileOne is facing an impending takeover bid now, it’s still business as usual for the telecom operator that prides itself on its services and innovation. From an upstart back in 1996, M1 has grown into a major player in its own right, grabbing 35% market share and profitability within 21 months of commencing operations. Chief Executive Officer Neil Montefiore is confident that MobileOne will expand further, especially with some new location-based services to be launched.

What percentage of revenue will come from voice and from data?
[Only] 5% of our revenues this year will come from non-voice services. We think that would grow to 25% by 2005. So, it’s quite an important revenue source for us to explore in its early days.

Location-based services will be an important aspect although we don’t think it will be particularly important as in looking for the nearest ATM. We think it would be more likely gear towards young people, like finding their friends, for example. In that aspect, we recently signed a joint venture with Webraska and SignalSoft to develop, in Singapore, a real first trial of location based services.

The new service will be mainly centred on what people are already doing today in the non-voice area, like messaging, e-mails, news, chat. It will [carry] emotional contents such as imaging, pictures, tunes, and we think entertainment is going to be a big area. So, we think games, and other sort of entertainment will significantly drive revenue.

And finally, it seems like the stuff we already got out there, in big quantity, which is information based services are starting to drive revenues in. So we think these sorts of services will start driving revenues, really, from next year.

What's the outlook for M1 in the wireless mobile arena?

M1 is already a world leader in non-voice services on mobile. We carry the second highest text messages traffic in the world, after the Philippines. So, we should be very well placed.

Singapore would be a showcase for these services mainly because of the high mobile penetration, the high GDP per capital and the very high Internet penetration. We don’t struggle to get coverage. We will have full national coverage with 3G and 2.5G the day we launch it while other countries will just be putting in hot spots of coverage. Everything is very well placed and there is a positive outlook.

What are some of the services or products that M1 is introducing?
We don’t announce these specific services, as we don’t want to tell our competitors exactly what we are doing. But there will be location based services launched this year as well as additional enhancement to our wireless portal, Mi World. Mi World will be completely revamped in the next couple of weeks and it will have a completely new look. It will also be made even more personally relevant.

We will be looking at products and services that are more fun in nature as well as launch services that have got to do with mobile payment. We have already demonstrated vending machine that dispenses a can of Pepsi after payment is made with just a mobile phone. There will be more of these types of services rolling out this year.

What are M1's plans for the various countries in Asia?
Every single part of Asia Pacific is different. Singapore is different from Indonesia, which is very different from Malaysia, which is very different from Hong Kong or Taiwan or Korea. So it’s very difficult to sort of say that this is an Asia Pacific perspective.

But Singapore is definitely positioned incredibly well. Its small size means that the network operators do not have to worry about achieving national coverage, they can do that relatively cost effectively. And, actually, the use of English also helps with the initial text based services. So, there are a lot of reasons why Singapore is well positioned.

Asia Pacific, in general, is a mixed bag. We have some countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, to some extent, quite advanced while Korea also is quite an advance market.

In other ways, it’s only a voice and coverage story in countries like Indonesia where people are looking at rolling out coverage to more remote areas, and most of the uses would be voice.

More about Top 20 Telecoms' Outlook.