Mobile Satisfaction is Knowing Who to Talk to

Published on: March 15, 2016

WASPA clarifies the role of mobile industry players

From its commercial launch in 1994, South Africa’s GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cellular industry has grown from a two-horse race focused on voice-based mobile services to a mature and vibrant sector characterised by several categories of players offering a welcome mix of voice and data-based services.

Today’s multilayered cellular industry means it’s not always easy identifying who to approach in the event of a customer query, or even a business proposal.

Ilonka Badenhorst, General Manager of South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) outlines the different players in the mobile industry below in the hope of greater transparency when it comes to interaction with the sector.

MOBILE NETWORK OPERATORS (MNOs)

Sitting at the top of the pile, so to speak, are the MNOs who ‘own’ the relationship with the end mobile consumer because they build and operate the basic elements of a cellular network such as the base stations that make mobile possible. Examples of MNOs are Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom Mobile.

The MNOs are fully-supportive of WASPA and its consumer protection mandate and have therefore implemented the double opt-in rule that has already seen a significant drop in consumer billing complaints. Before networks will deliver a mobile service or bill on behalf of a WASP, they will ensure they receive confirmation (second opt-in) from the consumer that they did indeed subscribe (first opt-in) to the service and are aware of the costs. Unless a consumer answers Yes to this SMS, or verifies the service via the network-hosted USSD confirmation page the service won’t be activated.

All MNOs have invested in state-of-the-art customer care centres that should be a mobile consumer’s first port of call when it comes to the vast majority of mobile-related queries. Consumers should determine their MNO’s help desk telephone number, or email address, and first attempt to resolve a specific query in this way. Typical customer queries directed to MNOs might relate to network coverage, network value-added services, handset upgrades, etc. Should the MNO be unable to assist, they might direct the client to one of the other mobile industry role players listed below.

MOBILE AGGREGATORS

Aggregators serve as the conduits through which requested mobile content and applications moves towards the end cellular customer. Aggregators enable the links between providers of mobile content, or Intellectual Property (IP), and MNOs. As such, they are not directly involved in billing end users, but instead deliver billing information on behalf of their own clients (the mobile content / IP providers) to the MNOs who in turn bill the mobile customer.

MOBILE CONTENT PROVIDERS

Content providers, or IP providers, spend a great deal of time, energy and resources developing the kind of mobile content and applications that add value to the mobile experience. These firms use the services of aggregators to ensure local mobile users are able to easily access this content.

CELLULAR SERVICE PROVIDERS

Although the South African cellular service provider (SP) model is no longer as prevalent as it once was, some SPs still exist to offer mobile users additional value-added services and features over and above those offered by their MNO. Because SPs are responsible for billing their own customers, the SP help desk should also serve as an initial port of call for customer queries.

THE WIRELESS APPLICATION SERVICE PROVIDERS’ ASSOCIATION (WASPA)

Incorporated in 2004 with a remit of representing and self-regulating the then fledgling wireless content and applications industry to ensure consumer protection, WASPA now has some 280 members.

The WASPA Code of Conduct governs the way WASPA members interact with South Africa’s cellular users. Mobile users are invited to familiarise themselves with the WASPA Code – should they feel that a provider of mobile content and services has not conducted itself in accordance with the provisions of the Code, they are welcome to alert WASPA via the complaints procedure located on this website.

ICASA is the Independent Communications Authority of SA and the regulator for the greater South African communications sector. As such, complaints regarding the mobile network operators should be directed towards this organisation.