Millions of Africans who cannot afford mobile handsets will now be able to access telecoms services following the launch of a group-wide sharing system.
This comes after Pan Africa telecoms company Airtel Africa signed an agreement with Movirtu, an innovator in Virtual SIM solutions, which will enable multiple numbers to be active on a single standard SIM card.
The deal creates a platform that allows mobile operators to provide services to users who cannot afford to purchase a personal handset while also allowing subscribers to keep multiple numbers on same handset.
With a Virtual SIM linked to their own personal mobile number, users can temporarily activate the Virtual SIM on a friend’s handset or shared village phone to make voice calls, send text messages or access value added and informative services such as mobile banking and mFarmer.
The service is already live in the Democractic Republic of Congo and Madagascar and is set to be replicated in other countries where Airtel operates.
“Working with Movirtu has proved to us that there is a strong appetite amongst people who currently do not own a mobile phone for a low-cost, secure service that keeps them connected,” said Willie Ellis, Airtel Group Director of Products and Innovation.
According to Movirtu CEO Carsten Brinkschulte, the agreement will help some approximately one billion people across the globe who do not possess a mobile phone to gain access to the mobile network.
“It’s clear that there is a significant market opportunity to convert many of these people into mobile subscribers for the first time, with their own phone number and prepaid account,” he said.
The virtual SIM platform is based on standard mobile network technology and, when integrated into the operator’s network, provides the basis for a variety of innovative service offerings. Subscribers are managed in the same way as any other with regards to customer care, provisioning and billing.
Airtel Africa operates in 17 Africa ountries with a total of 81.5 million subscribers. It is estimated that Africa, which has a population of one billion, is forecast to have 346 million unique subscribers by the year 2017.