The Edge Markets
This article originally appeared on The Edge Markets.
Southeast Asia’s mobile telephone markets, long characterised by take-no-prisoners price wars and boisterous marketing campaigns, have entered a new phase. Some markets are beyond saturated — they have penetration rates greater than 100%, meaning that there are more mobile phone accounts in use than there are people who use them.
In such an environment, operators can no longer prosper by endlessly cutting rates in the hopes of wooing customers away from competitors. An obsessive focus on customer acquisition has driven down revenues and crimped margins. Across major Southeast Asian markets, average revenue per user has been stagnant or falling since 2006.
Forward-looking carriers are developing approaches that focus on providing a superior customer experience, not the lowest price. They are investing heavily in their networks, with the aim of delivering fast and reliable service, especially for the data-intensive videos and apps that are overtaking voice and text as the main reasons people use their phones.
Florian Hoppe and Emmanuel Coucke are partners at Bain & Company’s telecommunications practice in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur respectively.