Something happened last week that you probably didn't notice. A significant number of mobile customers in Africa and the Middle East--230 million of them, to be exact--will soon be serviced by a new cloud-based business platform unlike any other in the mobile operator space. A PR Newswire press release detailed the deal between ItsOn, a Silicon Valley tech startup, and MTN Group, Africa's largest mobile operator. But it's not just about MTN. This technology will be coming to you no matter where you live.

Here's what the deal means, in tech speak:

This new mobile technology includes a device application and virtual connected cloud service, which can instantly deliver a number of seamless operator-consumer transactions, including simple discovery of mobile services, contextual commerce offers, easy payment options, loyalty offers, compelling customer retention strategies, segmented marketing and best-in-class support.

Translation:

There is now a way for mobile operators to give you and me the kind of customized mobile experience we want, and they can improve the ways in which they service us in minutes, not months.

It could be a few months before the solution is in the hands of actual MTN consumers, but the Group Chief Consumer Officer for MTN, Albert Fernandez, is betting heavily on a technology that basically makes his existing IT stack obsolete.

"Ultimately, we want to deliver industry leading digital services to aggressively compete with other global digital content providers and further substantiate the MTN brand promise," says Fernandez. "The opportunity to increase subscriber growth and revenue by delivering enhanced mobile connection services and new digital content through a personalized and affordable on-device commerce experience is only achieved through ItsOn's revolutionary cloud IT platform."

This will be the next big thing in the digital transformation of an industry still restricted by a legacy infrastructure. Until now the evolution of the smartphone on the user end has far outpaced improvements of the delivery system on the operator end. But when will this cloud-based platform become wide spread in the in the U.S.? Virgin Mobile appears to be adopting it, as well as Sprint, so it is deployed in the U.S. in a limited way so far.

This is a wholesale change in a massive market segment, approaching $1 trillion in size. One has to wonder why it has taken so long to develop, and how a small Silicon Valley startup like ItsOn has gotten so far ahead of the giants that have dominated the industry. Can ItsOn execute its disruptive strategy fast enough to gain a substantial piece of the market? Stay tuned.

Published on: Jan 26, 2016
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