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Chilean telco Movistar expects to launch in the next year a series of new applications around the areas of education, e-health and mobile banking, senior executives from the operator told BNamericas.
The notion that mobile operators have to move beyond being merely a "dumb pipe," or a conduit of information, to become a participant in the revenue pie of value-added services has been a top discussion topic at recent telecoms events.
Fernando Saiz, CEO of Movistar Chile, underscored the importance of what the operator has been doing with its Innova incubator program, which supports technological innovation in the area of applications. The company said in January that it was preparing to kick off a US$100mn investment fund that will be ready in March.
"It is bearing a lot of fruit, and in the coming years we're going to see an explosion of developers. Movistar is going to launch a series of applications in the region... that go from e-health to the virtual world," Saiz said.
"Many of these services have been coming for years, but it has not been possible to materialize them. But now we're going to see them in the 2011-12 timeframe - for example, lots of things in education services," he said.
Javier Valenzuela, devices manager for Movistar Chile, added that the company is seeking to develop the area of mobile banking.
"We've done some things in that area, but other countries are much more advanced, and that area should be developed more in the future," Valenzuela said. "The device is a medium that we can use as a payment point.... Mobile banking is a real service and very practical. Just think of how often you accidentally leave your wallet at home."
However, Valenzuela believes that standards will need to be better developed before such services can become really widespread.
OPERATORS WITH MARKETPLACES
Saiz sees operators in the future having their own marketplaces of applications in the same way that different operating systems such Android, Windows and BlackBerry have their own.
"We're going to have a world where operating systems have a marketplace, operators will have another marketplace that complements that of the operating systems, and device manufacturers may even have a third category of marketplaces," Saiz said.
"There won't be one marketplace, but many alternatives for the customer - a much more open concept."
During the Mobile World Congress, Movistar's Spanish parent, Telefónica (NYSE: TEF), showcased new applications the operator is keen to introduce over the next few years, including eDNI, which allows users to scan and store digital copies of ID and bank cards on SIM cards so they can make electronic payments using their phone.
Other innovations include 3D avatars that can be built by taking photos with a phone, and a conference call technology that brings the benefits of telepresence to residential and SME users. None of those technologies are commercially available yet.
Other announcements by the operator at the conference regarding the value-added services chain included: the launch of a mobile social networking solution, an agreement to preinstall eBay's mobile app on most of its smartphones and feature phones, and plans to launch a new application recommendation and management technology solution from Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOMM) in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.