iPLANS’ new VoIP service offers Cameroonians a virtual MVNO to get cheaper domestic and international calling rates
8 September 2017
Market competition in Cameroon has been a bit stranded. It has three (Orange, MTN and Viettel) and a half (Camtel) mobile operators and the incumbent Camtel still controls the wholesale market and the landing stations. But a new VoIP service from non-traditional operator iPLANS might just spice up a slow market. Russell Southwood talks to Simon Pearson, Business Development Director, World Telecoms Labs who supplied the equipment.
iPlans was launched in 2006 by Joseph Kamgue Takougang as a software, hardware and hosting solutions provider. It has launched a new VoIP calling service with low cost texts that will give Cameroonians the opportunity to get cheaper domestic and international calls and texts.
As its equipment supplier, Simon Pearson, Business Development Director, World Telecoms Labs told me:”These kind of low-cost calling services are surprisingly uncommon in African countries. Also it’s not just international calling but within the country. It has negotiated good termination rates with operators.”
iPLANS has its own number range and offers its subscribers low cost calling between subscribers. Access to the service is via an app on a smartphone called perfectTalk and you go to a website and sign up for the service:”It’s all pre-paid. He’s done a lot of programming on the portal using our APIs. When you sign up, you get an account and a phone number. When you’ve created a balance in the account, you can start calling.” It has both English and French language support.
iPLANS is also targeting those in conversation with the big Cameroonian diasporas in Belgium, the UK and the USA.
Data on smartphone penetration in Cameroon is hard to come by but the GSMA’s report The Mobile Economy – Africa 2016 shows that 30% of subscribers use IP messaging (like What’s App) and 11% more than SMS messaging. The same report’s 2017 edition says that there are 9.1 million unique mobile subscribers. Of these, according to the Afriscope 2016 survey only 9% were smartphone users.
Over 90% of these subscribers are with one or other of the three operators, Orange, MTN and Viettel. In these circumstances, there are clearly several million Cameroonian smartphone owners who might well appreciate lower calling costs.
So why don’t they all just use one or other of the international VoIP and IP messaging clients already out there?:”I think they will like the local flavor, there’s attractive call pricing and local numbers are what people want.” The shift to something like What’s App can seem daunting for someone unfamiliar with it so there may be a local opportunity here.
iPLANS chose WTL to help built its VoIP network and is using WTL’s VoIP switches, It has customised WTL’s web-based e-commerce portal – “Pay & Call” – for automated customer creation and customer self-care. This provides iPlan’s customers with a straightforward way to set up their accounts and manage payments online.
In a similar spirit, YooMee Cameroon, which has been bought out by a local Cameroonian investor from its previous owner, has launched an MVNO on incumbent Camtel’s network.
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