South Africa: FNB to use its ECNS licence for value-added services

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

It has a licence to operate, what is it doing with it? First National Bank says it will not be using its ECNS (Electronic Communications Network Service) licence to become the country’s next cellphone operator, but rather to increase value added services for its clients.

The licence is a fundamental requirement for companies wanting to become cellphone network operators. The bank acknowledges that it has the capability to venture into this market, but says it will use the licence to provide financial services on smartphones. It is currently offering products, such as FNB Banking, Quicksell and Connect Apps.

The apps allow clients to purchase prepaid airtime, apply for products and services or search for properties.

App users can now purchase prepaid airtime for – FNB Connect; Vodacom; MTN; Cell C; 8ta; and Virgin Mobile. The bank has also catered for data users by providing the purchase of SMS bundles, ADSL bundles and prepaid 3G.

Initially the app enabled clients to make free calls to other registered app users and to FNB Contact centres. It also allows app users to make calls to other mobile operators for 79c per minute, and offers cheaper roaming costs – potentially posing a threat to other operators.

In a written statement from the bank, head of products and markets at FNB Connect, Farren Roper says it is important to offer such products as its customers expect it.

“But more than that, our prepaid solution offer all the benefits of traditional prepaid and also have some added advantages. For example, when calling from the app, not only can you control your spend, but you can make the cheapest mobile calls in South Africa from 79c. You can also make international calls to the top 20 destinations including the US, UK, Australia, Zimbabwe and the like at only 25c, without having to activate international roaming.”

FNB bank which is spearheading innovation in the financial services sector received its ECNS licence in 2008, following a legal battle between Icasa and Altech Autopage.

The legal dispute resulted in all VANS (Value Add Network Service) licensees – including FNB at the time, being permitted to convert their licences to an ECNS.