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MEF Programme Director James Williams discusses the state of the global mobile ecosystem with a panel of experts, who assess the findings of MEF’s Business Confidence Index, a litmus test of how companies globally see their prospects in the current business climate, and find that the telecoms industry remains optimistic.

2020 showed itself to be the least kind year for many a decade. Many businesses were decimated and uncertainty continues across much of the globe. Hopes we would receive some respite early in 2021 have proved to be just that. Reality has a tendency of biting hard, doesn’t it. And so it does. But what about the mobile ecosystem?

On the face of it logic would surely dictate that much of the mobile sphere would remain broadly untouched given billions of people are literally connected to each other using it. The desire of people to communicate with each other (so person-to-person, P2P) using mobile would surely increase given freedoms to physically interact with each other have been significantly curtailed?

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And what about Business Messaging, A2P. It’s safe to say here there is a real mixed bag of results.  Or is it? We already heard in an earlier webinar moderated by MEF’s resident IoT expert Andrew Parkin-White look at global IoT related connectivity that IoT deployments slowed.

Given our members represent a fantastic cross-section of the mobile ecosystem, MEF has been running quarterly research for a long time, asking them about their expectations for revenue – the Business Confidence Index (BCI).

And last but by no means least – after all, if it’s good enough for MEF Board members, it’s good enough for everyone! – we asked them to consult their own crystal balls and share with us what they believe would unfold as 2021 progresses. Joining the panel to look at all aspects and provide global insight were:

  • Sherwin Barlow, Product Portfolio Manager with MTN South Africa
  • Pat Flynn, Co-Founder and Director of Business Development with Nettzer
  • Mitchell Cutmore, A2P Messaging Development LATAM with Telefonica
  • John Wilkinson, CEO with TMT Analysis

“Although the BCI shows a stark mix of optimism and concern for A2P growth in 2021, the ecosystem has proved resilient over the past months – particularly due to the authentication of online services and customer notifications as governments, banks and businesses seek regular contact as COVID circumstances continue to change.”

Mitchell Cutmore manages all aspects of A2P business development across Latin America for the mobile operator group Telefonica, with a particular focus on A2P SMS.

Mitch shared with us that “Although the BCI shows a stark mix of optimism and concern for A2P growth in 2021, the ecosystem has proved resilient over the past months – particularly due to the authentication of online services and customer notifications as governments, banks and businesses seek regular contact as COVID circumstances continue to change.

We’ve seen all manner of business (SMEs to banks) looking to incorporate A2P SMS for the first time while those who already embed business messaging in their customer journeys are now looking for opportunities to do more with messaging – exploring richer, more interactive, conversational RCS and/or omnichannel workflows.”

Mobile Personal Data and Identity is a particular area of interest for John Wilkinson and his team and he zeroed in on the element of our BCI research highlighting over a 20% decrease in positivity moving from Q4/2020 to Q1/2021.

Talking about the results in general “The Economist 2021 research predictions sing the same song. For example, the pandemic continues to have an uplift on mobile and internet services, but the Economist assume a largely negative stance in 2021 on global subscriber growth of Mobile and Broadband, topping out at only approximately 3% above pre-COVID levels.”

John goes on to say that “From the TMT perspective we see a counter to the Mobile Identity numbers, I.e., the biggest players – Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter – all coming under increasing pressure to fix fake accounts, akas, and other fraud and identity management issues. They are gradually accepting more needs to be done and the MNOs are making additional product available to help particularly around KYC and ATP. Therefore, we see really strong drivers of growth, for messaging players, driven by general ecommerce, and specifically the opportunity to secure digital account opening.”

Pat Flynn is Co-Founder and Director of Business Development of Nettzer  said “It was great to participate to the MEF Market Temperature Briefing.  Along with the other Panel Members I think that 2021 will be a good year for the Mobile Industry despite the impact of COVID.

As “Stay at Home” directives are increasing remote working and learning the Industry is well positioned to bring value to customers.  The need to market to customers remotely and, in turn to verify their identities and reduce scams will mean A2P SMS will see more growth this year.  The move to Digital First Selling and identity validation by SMS will be boosted by the impact of COVID.  To be honest, I don’t think we’re fully return to the conventional ways of doing business in the past, this event has changed everything.

Sherwin Barlow shared his direct assessment of how things will go on the ground over there the rest of this year: “2021 will be a tough year for enterprises in SA starting the year of in the middle of the peak of a pandemic. Their digital strategies and transformation plans will be even further accelerated and the opportunity to deliver great communication services and enable of engagement is now, as its our responsibility to ensure that enterprises are able to continuously engage with their customers both internal and external”.

It’s clear to see that 2021 will see a host of different scenarios in play in different geographies around the world. Let’s see what MEF’s next iteration of Business Confidence research will unearth in the coming months…

James Williams

Director of Programmes, MEF


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