Macalla secures six-figure Romanian deal


9 Sep 2003

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Dublin-based Macalla Software has secured a six-figure contract with Romania’s No 1 mobile operator, Connex, for its Mobile Top-Up product. The technology is at the heart of a new service, launched last month, which allows the operator’s prepaid subscribers to top up their mobile phones directly from their bank accounts via an SMS message.

With a subscriber base of 2.7 million, Connex has a 49pc share of the fast-growing Romanian mobile market. The new top-up application is the latest of a number of innovative services it has launched in recent months.

“Romanian operators are very keen to link mobile telephony and banking because the banking network is not sophisticated. There are few ATMs and internet penetration is very low,” explained Macalla’s managing director, Niall O’Cleirigh. “In other countries where the mobile top-up service has been launched it’s proved to be quick and easy to adopt because users don’t have to find a retail outlet or buy a scratch card.”

He added that the service is good for Connex, too, as it means that fewer top-up transactions will be going through retail outlets, which generally take a five to 15pc cut of each scratch card sale, a higher percentage than banks charge for the new SMS top-up service.

The contract is worth between €250,000 and €500,000 to Macalla, according to O’Cleirigh, who sees good business opportunities in the central and eastern European region.

“These countries tend to see mobile networks as being more important than land lines because they never would have had great telephone networks. In the past few years, operators such as Connex have come into the market and launched excellent services that appeal to users. Because spending power is quite low and subscribers tend to have mid- to low-range handsets, the operators focus on the needs of that particular market by offering services such as mobile SMS. They see it as a first step towards a more extensive use of the mobile as a transactional device,” O’Cleirigh explained.

Macalla Mobile Top-Up securely connects subscribers’ mobile phones with Connex’s internal IT infrastructure and billing systems, and allows subscribers to top up their accounts securely from their bank accounts via an SMS message. Top-up requests, initiated from the handset, are routed to Macalla Mobile Top-Up, which seeks bank authorisation to debit the subscriber’s account. Once this authorisation is given, Macalla Mobile Top-Up then issues an instruction to credit the subscriber’s pre-paid Connex account. The subscriber then receives instant SMS notification confirming the success of the transaction. SIM cards and integration services have been provided by global telecoms integrator SchlumbergerSema.

O’Cleirigh added that although Macalla was close to signing several other deals with European operators and financial institutions, the general market conditions remained challenging. “It’s more difficult now than it was a couple of years ago. Return on investment is paramount for operators. But if you can align your business strategy with theirs you can be successful,” he said.

One of Ireland’s best-known mobile applications developers, Macalla was ranked fourth in last year’s Deloitte & Touche Fast 50 Awards.

By Brian Skelly