x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Profit from talking: Zain aims to offer premium rate line

Zain expects the service will be popular among doctors and lawyers who could charge clients by giving advice over the phone, while celebrities could turn a profit by charging fans to talk to them.

Faced with declining revenues from voice calls, Zain Group, the Kuwaiti mobile operator, is planning a new service that enables subscribers to turn their number into a premium rate line to generate income.

Zain expects the service will be popular among doctors and lawyers who could charge clients by giving advice over the phone. Organisations would also be able to raise funds this way, while celebrities could turn a profit by charging fans to talk to them.

“In competitive and maturing markets the operators are looking around for new revenue streams,” Matthew Reed, principal analyst at Inform Telecoms & Media, said yesterday. “This scheme is aimed at people who have small businesses and might create a whole category of calls that didn’t exist before.”

As instant messaging and voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) applications like Skype, Viber and BlackBerry Messenger continue to gain traction in the Middle East, users are making fewer traditional telephone calls.

Informa predicts voice revenues in the Middle East will grow by just 0.48 per cent this year when compared to 2013, while revenue from data services will grow 19 per cent.

“The pattern might be slightly different in particular markets, but operators are facing a lot of disruption in the market as a result of the messaging services which are having quite a big effect on revenues and are disrupting voice revenues as well,” Mr Reed said.

The new service, called Personal Premium Number (PPN), is being developed by Zain and the London-based tech company ARBooster.

Zain will get a cut of the revenue that users generate from the service.

“We have been keeping an eye on how we could enhance value-added voice services for a while. PPN is one of those novel ideas that will appeal to several segments of our customer base across the region, as we gradually roll it out during 2014,” said Scott Gegenheimer, the chief executive at Zain Group.

The operator will launch the service across its eight markets, which include Jordan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

“This service is a rare glimmer of hope in the midst of otherwise depressing voice traffic projections for mobile operators,” said Jason Cawley, managing director at ARBooster.

thamid@thenational.ae

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