Business News of Thursday, 15 November 2012
Head of MTN Mobile Money at MTN Ghana, Eli Hini has said it is impossible to transfer money from a mobile wallet on one network to a mobile wallet on another network in Ghana right now.
He said “presently there is no interoperability between the various telecom networks so money cannot be transferred from a mobile wallet on one network to a mobile wallet on another network.”
“When I hear some networks saying they can transfer money across networks I wonder what they are talking about because you cannot transfer money from Tigo Cash or Airtel Money to a mobile wallet on MTN Mobile Money,” he stressed.
Tigo in particular, has been promoting a service on its Tigo Cash platform, which creates the impression there is interoperability between the various platforms that allows transfer of electronic money across networks.
Airtel also claims it has a similar service on its Airtel Money platform, but the company does not promote that very much.
Indeed, Head of Mobile Finance at Tigo, Selorm Adadevoh told Adom News he had only heard Airtel had a similar service, but in reality, it is only Tigo which has customers actually using the service extensively.
That service is actually nothing more than a simple SMS notification sent directly to the recipient of electronic money on the other network, indicating who sent the money, how much, when the money was sent, and the password or PIN code for the collection of the money from an agent of the network from where the money was sent.
Mr. Hini noted that when such a transfer is done, the recipient cannot go to an agent of his own network and collect the money, but would have to necessarily go to the sender’s network agent for the money, so that is not a transfer across networks.
He said such SMS notifications could be sent to anybody on any network without the person necessarily being a Mobile Money subscriber.
The MTN Mobile Money Head said MTN has not seen the need for that practice because the system of transfer, where the recipient’s phone number is keyed in as part of the process is not the best.
Hini explained that there was the possibility of committing an error that could land the money in the hands of the wrong person, so MTN prefers the situation where the details about the transfer is sent to the sender, then he or she would have the option of either calling the recipient and reading out the collection details, or sending it by SMS.
The Interoperability Benchmarks
He said there have been some initial discussion about interoperability between the various Mobile Money platforms of the telcos, but “we are far away from realizing it.”
Hini explained that for interoperability to be possible there was need for each telco to meet some key performance indicators (KPIs) and benchmarks, adding that if one player meets those benchmarks and another does not, it would affect the entire ecosystem and customers would hold some telcos responsible for the failings of other telcos.
He noted, for instance, that currently some MTN Mobile Money agents struggle with liquidity (enough cash) to meet demands from MTN Mobile Money customers alone, so if additional platforms come onboard, MTN would have to do more to enable those agents meet the demand, otherwise it could affect the entire ecosystem.
“But we have actually started discussing the interoperability benchmarks – the discussion is being led by NCA (National Communication Authority) and GhiPSS (Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems) but there is still need to get a number of things going before anything could be concretized,” he said.