Johannesburg - MTN Group [JSE:MTN] said on Tuesday that it wanted to take advantage of an expected explosion in the applications market by opening an applications store "in the near future".
Speaking at the VAS (Value Added Service) Africa conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, Gary Trehair, senior manager for portals at MTN, said: "An MTN application store will be launching in the near future. This is a space that will explode." He said that the group would offer a "wide range of apps in multiple territories".
The strategy to move into the world of mobile applications comes amid declining margins in voice revenue for operators. Trehair said the aim of MTN would be to "dramatically" grow its services ecosystem.
He added that the group would look to enable third parties to build applications. "This is a big focus for us going forward," he said.
When I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE queried Trehair on the date of launch, he said it would be "much sooner" than the next six months, with an initial focus on SA, Nigeria and other markets where the group already had a strong presence.
MTN's network reach exceeds 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa and recently surpassed 150 million customers.
Trehair said that there was a market for paid-for applications, but initially MTN would launch its stores with generic applications serving social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and others. He noted, however, that MTN would look to develop applications with independent developers, adding: "The handset market will always exist."
Addressing the audience at the Sandton Convention Centre, Trehair said that MTN expected large growth in applications in its markets, particularly in music, health, mobile money and financial services, with a big focus on localisation. He pointed out that MTN was the leading provider of football content in Africa, adding that the group had recently entered into the "insurance game".
MTN highlighted Interactive Voice Response (IVR) as a market in which it saw great value moving forward. IVR is the system responsible for playing automated messages to prompt customers who call specified telephone numbers.