DiGi: Mobile Internet a key growth area

  • TECH
  • Wednesday, 05 Nov 2014

Conversation centrepiece: DiGi's Geek Bars provide customers with the opportunity to get answers for the challenges they face when connecting to the Internet on their mobile devices.

Most Malaysians may already have a healthy, growing appetite when it comes to the Internet, but according to Christian Thrane, chief marketing officer at DiGi Telecommunications, there’s plenty more that they can reap from the Internet once they gain more know-how. 

“I think the Internet is basically everything you want to make of it,” he says, adding that while the Internet is primarily an avenue for staying connected to loved ones, it also plays a significant role in providing entertainment, access to timely information, education, and much more. 

As part of the company’s efforts to encourage its customers to do more on the Web, DiGi has 
enhanced its in-store experience this year with the introduction of a Geek Bar. Basically, it is a dedicated counter where customers can consult DiGi staff about issues they face on their mobile devices, particularly with regards to the operating system. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to have good conversations around what you can do on the Internet,” explains Thrane. “Obviously Android and iOS are the biggest operating systems used on our network and as such, they are the main focus for our Geek Bar.” 

In addition, there are also Apple and Android hubs set up within some of the DiGi stores to enable customers to have a better experience when trying out the latest mobile devices. 

“This is an in-retail initiative we’ve taken to present the products in a more attractive way,” he adds. 

So far, the company has refurbished 120 of its stores nationwide. Six My Android Hubs and seven Apple Hubs are now operational in selected stores, with more in the pipeline. 

DiGi sees this as an important move as it believes consumer experience is one of the key factors in cultivating further growth in Internet penetration. 

Maintaining effective online channels for customer interaction is also crucial. 

“For many customers, online channels are the place they go to for information before they actually head down to our stores to buy a device,” he says. 

For DiGi, one of the ways it has created a more responsive web experience for its customers is by ensuring that its website fits well on whatever screen size a customer is using. 

“We see that more than half our traffic for our website comes from mobile so it has become an increasingly important way for consumers to explore our products and services.” 

Smartphones and social messaging 

According to Thrane, DiGi has seen its active mobile Internet customers increase by as much as 26% year-on-year. Meanwhile, it says smartphone penetration amongst its customer base has increased by 47% whilst Internet penetration is now at 53%. 

Presently, 28% of the company’s total revenue comes from mobile Internet subscriptions. 

“Internet penetration has grown tremendously over the last year,” says Thrane. “At the same time, we’re also seeing the frequency of (Internet) usage increasing.” 

He shares that the average Internet usage amongst its customers has also gone up by 50% in terms of capacity. 

Undoubtedly, the fact that more and more people now own smartphones has been one of the major driving forces behind this surge in Internet usage. But Thrane also points out that the ongoing popularity of social messaging and video streaming is also a contributing factor. 

“We see this trend where social messaging is now more than just about text messaging. It’s increasingly being used for sharing pictures,” Thrane says, naming Facebook and apps like Whatsapp and WeChat as being among the favourite avenues for doing so.

“As platforms like Facebook mature, people will have a lot more friends there and once that happens, consumers will share more,” he adds. 

For video streaming, Thrane identifies YouTube as being the most preferred source for most Malaysians. In particular, he says Korean music content remains popular here. 

Encouraging growth: Smartphone penetration, and the popularity social messaging and video streaming has contributed towards the surge in mobile Internet take up, according to Christian Thrane.

Looking ahead

One of the ways that DiGi has responded to the growing demand for the Internet amongst its customer base has been through offering weekly prepaid data plans. 

“This has been a good growth driver for us. It fits our customer top-up patterns quite well,” Thrane says. 

This week, the company has introduced another two new prepaid data plans known as XL28 and XL38 which it is targeting at the more mature prepaid data users in its customer base. 

One of the main benefits of these plans is that subscribers would be able to enjoy unlimited high speed social messaging on WhatsApp and WeChat even if they were to exceed their monthly quotas of either 500MB or 1GB. 

Besides that, there is currently a promotion where customers can enjoy an additional 1GB for Facebook and YouTube on top of their subscribed quota when they sign up for either one of the XL plans. Free calls and SMS are also included for both these packages. 

As for DiGi’s efforts to beef up its network coverage and quality, Thrane shares that the telco’s 3G coverage has reached 84%. The company also continues to expand on its 4G LTE coverage.

“It’s important to look at LTE in the context of devices. We will expand and invest in LTE, but until we have a genuine penetration of LTE devices, we won’t be able to see the migration of traffic to LTE yet.”

He stresses that DiGi’s focus is on ensuring consistent Internet experiences for its customers. 

The company has an ongoing partnership with Celcom Axiata Bhd where both parties will share network infrastructure resources with each other for a 10 year period. It also struck a collaborative deal with Telekom Malaysia Bhd which will help to enhance its fibre network connectivity. 

“ We believe we are ready to take a lead in mobile Internet. When it comes to urban consumers, especially the data savvy youth segment, we are definitely well positioned,” Thrane says.

He also says that DiGi is looking forward to the upcoming iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch in Malaysia which will take place on 6 November. 

“We have seen a very encouraging take up for pre-orders on our website and a lot of customers are looking forward to that,” he says. 

DiGi is currently the third largest telco operator in Malaysia with a revenue market share of 29%. 

In the third quarter of 2014, it announced that its mobile Internet customers had grown by 26.5% to 6 million, whereas its overall revenue grew in the same period by 3.3% year-on-year to RM1,756mil due to the increase in Internet revenue.
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