M-learning can salvage falling telco revenues

Mobile apps for education can revitalize falling revenues faced by telcos today, by increasing subscriber retention rates and tapping on markets with low resources, according to app developer Qooco.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Mobile learning (m-learning) apps can help lift the falling average revenue per user (ARPU) of telcos in the region, through generating higher retention rates and accessing uptapped markets, especially in regions with lower educational resources. 

That was the view of David Topelewski, CEO at educational mobile app developer Qooco, in an interview with ZDNet on Wednesday. 

Mobile learning (m-learning) apps can help lift the falling average revenue per user (ARPU) of telcos in the region.

Topelewski noted telcos worldwide are facing falling revenues, and are on track to continue declining with the emergence and popularity of over-the-top (OTT) players leveraging the data plans. According to research firm Analysys Mason in April, telecom retail revenue in developed Asia-Pacific markets is set to decline at a CAGR of 0.4 percent over the next five years, he pointed out.

The only way forward is to look at higher value applications to make up for this declining users, thhe CEO noted. 

One such method is partnerning with m-learning apps, which is gaining traction due to widespread 3G coverage and high smartphone adoption, Topelewski pointed out, citing an Ambient Insight report which stated M-learning revenue in Asia will hit US$6.8 million by 2017.  

M-learning the silver bullet

Education presents a large opportunity for these telcos because it is worth US$4.5 trillion as a whole, Topelewski pointed out adding it is "not a fad, not trendy, and going to be here forever" because people see the value of education and always want to increase their skillset. 

Telcos can do this by having a revenue sharing arrangement whereby telcos assist in co-promotion, marketing and e-commerce, while the mobile learning apps carry out ongoing content promotion and hosting, he said.

"If telcos are proactive in selling the services, or even working with school systems, they can add value by contributing to the ecosystem through their data plan, and ultimately get a bigger revenue share," Topelewski said. 

The education can come in the form of learning languages and or picking up vocational skills on a mobile device, he observed. If someone make a commitment to doing either of these, there is a purpose behind it, related to business opportunities or mandatory job requirements, he noted. 

The retention rate is definitely higher as compared to telcos working with apps which are "fad driven" for example, such as social games, Topelewski observed. 

"Education is perceived as high value by employers and students so it's the key to empowering and changing the fortunes of telcos," he said. 

Asian markets with low education resources can benefit most

Within Asia, the markets with low levels of education infrastructure will benefit the most, Topelewski observed, noting Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and China are some markets in the region. 

Even though China has a fairly well-developed education system, there is a gap between larger and smaller cities with the latter not having access to good education resources, he pointed out. 

The population here is large and growing, compared to other continents, yet a lot of people do not have good access to materials but need skills and educational training, he added. 

Asian telcos should hence leverage on this opportunity within education in light of their falling ARPU to OTT players, he noted. "Mobile is a gamechanger because you have so much access which is simply not possible with the conventional way," he said. 

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