As technology continues to accelerate at warp speed, what’s new for Bahrain? Hint: the key word is remote. Patrik Melander of Ericsson provides an in-depth analysis.

 

Would you mind telling us and our readers who you are and what you do?

I am Patrik Melander and I joined Ericsson Sweden as part of the research and development team in 1993. The last 22 years with Ericsson have taking me on a journey of growth together with the company in several international positions, including USA, Latin America and Japan. Today, in addition to my role as president of Customer Unit for the GCC and Pakistan, I am also the president of Global Customer Unit Zain at Ericsson.

A demonstration of a remote controlling vehicle through broadband was made during the 5th Zain Technology conference, 2015. What’s the idea behind this and why is this important in our future?

Our digger demo is an example of what new possibilities 5G will bring and what requirements 5G will face from industries. We are showing the idea of how it is possible to remotely control real, full-size, heavy machinery. The actual real size demo was shown during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015 and it was a remote controlled digger placed in a remote location in Sweden where the actual operator was located in Barcelona, Spain. So in reality, an excavator can be placed in locations where hardships exist while the digger operator is located in a safe area controlling the digger using broadband network, a pair of headphones, and a pair of virtual reality goggles, called Oculus Rift.

What does Ericsson hold for the future of broadband?

The future of broadband is a reality for Ericsson and our customers now. Broadband is a key enabler of change for our industry and the broader society, in addition to Mobility and Cloud, so naturally this is at the forefront of Ericsson’s focus on the Networked Society.

According to Ericsson latest Mobility report released in November; within the Middle East and North East Africa, Mobile Data traffic already increased 80% in 2015, from the previous year.  Moving forward, we forecast strong growth, heavily driven by video, with a sixteen-fold increase in Mobile data traffic by the end of 2021. By 2021, total mobile subscriptions are expected to reach 880m subscribers with over 70% of these subscriptions being mobile broadband subscriptions.

This means that the strategic decisions of our customers and Ericsson are already considering the future broadband needs; positioning to capitalise on the realisation of 5G with new types of devices, new use cases related to machine to machine (M2M)and the subsequent opportunities that will arise from new industries and verticals.

What does Ericsson have in the pipeline for mobile commerce?

Ericsson is aware that the m-commerce industry is set for huge growth and is expected to process over US$800 billion globally by 2016, being the two key drivers of mobile payments –banking the unbanked and the increase of payments going mobile. Ericsson also wants to be part of this trend to support the Technology For Good initiative that the company follows.

Globally, 1.5 billion people have a bank account, while over 6 billion have access to a mobile device. Making mobile payments access could potentially triple the business of money for financial service providers, banks and operators.

On another note, the conventional retail is also undergoing a convergence on mobile phones with the emergence of mobile retail and social retail – the demand is there. In fact, in a few years the mobile wallet is expected to replace conventional credit and debit cards, which is further propelling this demand for m-commerce.

OUR SOLUTIONS HAVE OPEN APIS AND HELP OUR CUSTOMERS OFFER THE MONEY TRANSFER, SAVINGS, LOAN AND PAYMENT SERVICES THEIR CUSTOMERS WANT.

At Ericsson, we drive this change of making money more open by orchestrating collaboration between banks and operators and developing secure, flexible m-commerce platforms that help build an interconnected and transparent financial ecosystem.

Our mobile wallet solutions are designed to be cost-efficient, reliable and secure, so sending money can be as easy as sending a text – and receiving money as simple as receiving a phone call.

Our solutions have open APIs and help our customers offer the money transfer, savings, loan and payment services their customers want. Operators who are already Ericsson Charging System customers can make use of our Converged Wallet solution – which enables them to simply reuse existing assets to bundle secure telecom and financial services.

Ericsson recently signed contract with Telenor Pakistan for deploying Ericsson Mobile Wallet Platform as a replacement of their existing platform. This will include an integrated M-commerce solution, support and managed services for more than 15 million active consumers and 65,000 agents in over 800 cities. The deployment represents one of the largest mobile money service offerings in the world.

Ericsson believes in the Networked Society where every person and every industry is empowered to reach their full potential. We lead the transformation through mobility.

We’ve also seen at Zain Technology Conference 2015 the solar panels and mobile payments at kiosks. Would you mind explaining how will these help their targeted audiences?

Solar power, combined with rural connectivity and the mobile wallet payment offers innovative solutions to socio-economic challenges in rural areas. Ericsson wanted to show that a rural connected kiosk can help tackle rural challenges. Often, the business case to bring 3G to rural areas is challenging, due to remoteness, dispersed population and perhaps difficult to access terrain. Since grid power is often lacking, fuel is a costly element of that challenging business case. Solar power is one way to bring the cost down, reduce the maintenance needs and provide power for additional services, such as TV, a charging station and fridge in the kiosk. Another challenge faced by many rural people is their exclusion from financial systems and lack of service delivery. They often need to migrate to cities to look for work or to access education and medical services. Cash is considered costly and insecure because it has to be sent via expensive money transfer services or the person sending money home may need to travel for a day or two to bring the cash with them. Banks are not extending their retail offerings to poor rural areas, but most of these people already have mobile phones, so bringing Mobile Financial Services, such as the Mobile Wallet, can easily improve the lives of the previously unbanked.

Also, providing 3G services enables the ability to geo-tag a location. This means DHL or other service providers can locate an address, such as a rural kiosk to make deliveries and also to pick up goods, such as baskets and handicrafts intended for stores in the city or even international clients. Of course these services could be paid for using the mobile wallet, and the agent in the kiosk would earn a small commission on each transaction. So the combination of solar power, rural connectivity and mobile wallet can help to positively transform lives of rural people, bringing them into the networked society.

Do you think Ericsson can help ignite the micro-transaction industry in areas that don’t have access to the supporting infrastructure?

Ericsson’s aim is to promote the Networked Society, therefore, we want to connect those who are not connected and we will work to meet and enhance the requirements needed by our customers.

See Also

As mobile money becomes increasingly integrated into societies, we will witness the evolution of intelligent networks. Today, outdated legacy systems are the foremost barrier of mobile money growth – because the user demand and business opportunities are robust. However, most assets are already in place and have been tested on a global scale – so there is no need to build the infrastructure from scratch. Mobile phones act as payment terminals and phone numbers act as identifiers. The assets are already there.

Mobile wallet solutions will have a positive impact on the entire ecosystem, from network operating centres, to the dynamics of the infrastructure and the use of big data. In terms of usage, customer experience becomes paramount. The regulations of traffic, rich data communications and a myriad of other factors have to come together and offer a seamless experience.

LOOK FOR THE NEED IN EACH MARKET AND USE THE POTENTIAL THAT MOBILITY AND CONNECTIVITY OFFERS TO OFFER A SOLUTION TO SPECIFIC NEEDS IN THE MARKET.

Why is the micro-transactions industry important? Why does it need to exist and who does it serve?

Micro-transaction is very relevant for operators because it is relatively an untapped market, especially in this region. Almost 80% of smartphone subscriptions added during 2015–2020 will be from Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.  The reciprocal effect is that there is also an increase in mobile data traffic, where users are spending a huge amount of time on their smartphones.

Operators are responding by providing infrastructures to support current and future needs of M2M and the Networked Society.  Once the infrastructure (p2p, bandwidth, storage) is available to support streaming and on-demand services, we see real-time micro-transactions as one of the vital infrastructural building blocks that will enable IoT applications to blossom and become useful.

The reason why it needs to exist is because customers would like to easily pay for the next level in their favourite online game, or subscribe to additional cloud space, or purchase content.  M-Commerce services would allow the operators to position themselves as the payment enablers, leveraging on their existing brand that creates customer trust, investment and partnership.  Partnerships is key as it allows operator a quicker Time-to-Market, service differentiation as well as sharing resources, be it infrastructure, human, content, services with their partners.  A robust m-money solution should be able to support such needs for revenue sharing with partners, as well as handling the complex cross transaction between partners.

What would you say to aspiring entrepreneurs who are building on the mobile platform industry?

Entrepreneurs and startups bring innovation to the market. Customers, such as Zain, are encouraging these players to join the market and bring the innovation needed to boost the business and progress to the Networked Society. I would encourage these entrepreneurs to look for the need in each market and use the potential that mobility and connectivity offers to offer a solution to specific needs in the market. Innovators will help to build the coming society along with our customers.

How are you helping Zain Bahrain be a part of our future?

We have enjoyed a long-lasting collaborative relationship with Zain Bahrain over a number of years, as it is an innovative market leader. The company is leading the way to the Networked Society future by upgrading their networks and capabilities and implementing the latest products and services to ensure end-user satisfaction. We have recently conducted a virtualisation engagement with Zain Bahrain and Zain Group where we collaborated on paving the way for Cloud and Virtualisation with Zain. This is a stepping-stone towards the Digital Transformation that is the heart of Zain’s strategy and we at Ericsson are working very closely with Zain to realise all the benefits of this transformation, which is aligned with Ericsson’s Networked Society strategy as well.

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