Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke took to the stage to urge more operators to embrace the GSMA’s Mobile Connect ID authentication initiative, saying that the industry needs to cooperate to keep control of the log-in in order to retain ownership of the customer relationship and stay relevant in an increasingly digital world.
Just this week, GSMA said that 34 mobile network operators have now launched the service in 21 countries, with plans for additional launches and trials to follow in 2016 and beyond. So far, two billion consumers have the ability to use the service, which essentially enables a person’s mobile phone number to be used as a single ID for various digital services.
However, Brekke warned that the market is “cluttered” with other digital players that also want to own the log-in stage. The days of just one SIM card per customer are fast disappearing, he added.
In his view, mobile operators should now be seriously considering how they will retain this control because time is running out.
“I think it is time to start stepping up and not give away the customer relationship we have,” Brekke said.
For telcos, the issue at stake is maintaining the customer relationship in a situation where internet services are disrupting traditional business models and threatening to reduce telcos to simple utility providers.
Brekke welcomed the Mobile Connect initiative as a way to address this issue, but said the biggest challenge here is to get operators to cooperate.
“They are used to competing” he said. “Just the concept of agreeing to do something together takes a little time to get used to that.”
Brekke said Telenor wants to be at the forefront of becoming an ID provider and is already rolling out services in Asia, with an initial focus on Pakistan and Bangladesh. Services will be rolled out in Europe at a later date.
Interestingly, the company is also using biometrics for secure identification on devices.
Anne Bouverot, the former director general of GSMA, who is now CEO of Morpho, noted that usage of biometrics such as fingerprint access to secure mobile devices has developed hugely after initial scepticism.
But while around 200 smartphone models now use fingerprinting, Bouverot sees biometrics moving to other parts of the body.
“The future of biometrics is selfies,” she said. “Unlike passwords, faces are not secret, but they clearly belong to us.”