MTN launching messenger service to take on WhatsApp

Speaking at MTN’s financial results presentation for the year ended 31 December 2018, Group CEO Rob Shuter announced that the mobile operator would launch a new instant messaging platform.

Shuter said the IM service would form part of the company’s mobile money portfolio and aims to function as the “WeChat of Africa”, enabling mobile payments for the unbanked and underbanked.

The company plans to launch the platform, its own music streaming service, and an improved mobile money offering.

“We have built our own instant messaging platform which has been in beta testing for months now,” Shuter said.

“It will begin launching across our operational markets this year, starting with two West African markets.”

MTN Messenger in South Africa

Shuter told MyBroadband that the MTN messaging app would launch across the group’s entire portfolio, including South Africa.

The rollout of the application will begin in African markets as a pilot and expand to other markets like South Africa going forward.

When it comes to taking on applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in South Africa, Shuter said MTN’s platform will offer communication channels which are not only reliant on data.

“First and foremost, we are building in SMS integration into the messaging app. This is really important,” he said.

The integration of SMS will allow data-enabled 3G customers to converse with non-data customers across a seamless messaging platform.

Localisation and integration

“This will be an important differential between existing apps and the platform we are building, especially as the penetration of data customers increases in our market,” Shuter said.

MTN’s messaging app is built from scratch by an in-house team and will offer localisation across MTN’s operational markets. The app currently supports 54 languages, he added.

“Another focus is the integration of MTN Mobile Money in the markets where this service is offered,” Shuter said.

He said the platform would be a messaging-centric app with an embedded payment mechanism, and it will also offer incentives for customers via the bundling of data promotions and services.

Integrating this platform within the MTN messaging application would allow users to make payments to other Mobile Money customers easily, while also communicating with other users via data-reliant and SMS messaging.

MTN Mobile Money will also expand to South Africa, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Sudan this year, Shuter added.

There is currently no launch date for the MTN messaging app in South Africa, but Shuter said the application will begin rolling out this year.

Now read: We are done losing market share in South Africa – MTN

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MTN launching messenger service to take on WhatsApp