Carrier billing in 2019: Asia market report

Carrier billing in 2019: Asia market report

This market report takes a look at the direct carrier billing landscape in Asia: Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Taiwan, Cambodia and Singapore.

In the report below, we have profiled the digital ecosystem and demographics of each of the major Asian markets. We have additionally included internal data from Fortumo, sharing information on what carrier billing solutions look like in the country, as well as data on user spending behavior.

Here is the full list of data included for each of the ten countries profiled:

  • Demographics: population of the country, median age, localization requirements
  • Economy: GNI per capita, bank account access, debit and credit card ownership, taxation, currency exchange rate
  • Telecommunications: mobile phone and smartphone ownership, mobile broadband access, prepaid SIM market share, telco market shares, GSMA Mobile Connectivity Index Score, platforms used to access digital content
  • Marketing: Google Play cost-per-install (CPI) as compared to the US market
  • Merchant deployments: list of leading digital merchants partnered with telcos in the country for carrier billing or bundling (pictured also above)
  • Carrier billing data: monthly median revenue per user, transaction volume change, carrier billing popularity for digital content purchases, price point distribution, user spend distribution

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Why do people pay for streaming but not for newspaper subscriptions?

Why do people pay for streaming but not for newspaper subscriptions?

The conversion rates of the world’s largest streaming services are impressive. 46% of Spotify users are paying customers under the freemium model. Netflix runs a premium model and they don’t publish conversion data, but 91% of their users are paying customers while only 9% are on a free trial.

How do digital publishers stack up in comparison? Reuters’ Digital News Report indicates only 14% of people paid for online news during 2018. This means individual publishers have even lower conversion rates. According to FIPP’s global digital subscription snapshot, newspapers in Europe’s largest countries have the following subscriber numbers:

  • Germany, population 83M: BildPlus, 0.4M subscribers

  • France, population 67M: Le Monde, 0.2M subscribers

  • UK, population 66M: Financial Times, 0.7M subscribers

For digital publishers, converting readers into paying customers has proven to be a significant challenge.

Streaming services and publishers started out their battle to win over paying customers on an equal footing. In the early days of the Internet, people read online news for free and pirated music and video content.

Today, people have the choice of googling a free source for a news story that’s behind a paywall. They also still have the choice to download pirated content or stream it through services like Popcorn Time. Piracy is still significant: BitTorrent today produces one third of total upstream internet traffic in the EMEA region.

However, streaming services keep on growing and have significantly better conversion rates compared to digital publishers, despite the fact that majority of their content can also be found elsewhere for free.

What could publishers to differently to reach the same performance level?


Most digital publishers use the same business model as for selling print newspapers, a monthly subscription. Streaming services use the exact same model successfully. So why is conversion lower for publishers?

Looking at the price of streaming and newspapers for consumers, the pricing isn’t that different:

  • BildPlus (Germany), €7.99/month, while Spotify costs €9.99 and Netflix €7.99

  • Le Monde (France), €9.99/month, while Spotify costs €9.99 and Netflix €7.99

  • Financial Times (UK), ~$16/month, while Spotify costs ~$17, Netflix ~$11

What are the potential reasons of lower conversion, leaving aside all other aspects but the price? There are only two options:

  1. Less people are willing to pay for news than streaming

  2. The perception is that the price is too high

If the first point is what impacts conversion most, then publishers can’t do anything about it: at least not in the short-term and with immediate results. But what they can impact is the price of their service.

Lowering the service price creates challenges of its own, as the business may become unprofitable and price hikes are difficult to pull off later without creating churn. However, validating whether it’s price that is keeping consumers from converting needs to be done.

Otherwise, it doesn't matter how good the business intelligence systems are or whether users get personalized recommendations that increase their engagement. If the price is too high, they still won't sign up.

The half-way solution to validate the idea is to offer subscriptions in a smaller chunk. For example, people may be more willing to pay $2/week rather than $8/month, even if the total price is the same. Notably, Financial Times does use a weekly subscription payment, and their subscriber base is larger than that of the two other newspapers brought out who only use a monthly model.

Business model

From the consumer’s perspective, every piece of streaming content has the same value. It doesn’t matter if you like documentaries or horror movies, pop music, jazz or classical, the amount of money you’re willing to pay to get access to it is more or less the same.

Things are different for publishing. Global everyday news items are freely available across the web. Investigative journalism pieces, long-form opinion articles, local gossip and sports content are more valuable, as there’s no alternative sources to get the information from.

This means applying a blanket one-subscription-for-everything model may not be the right approach.

In streaming, the business models are also more fragmented than appears at first sight. YouTube runs on advertising revenue. Netflix has premium. Spotify has freemium. Streaming services in emerging markets use sachet pricing. Time-sensitive content such as sporting events use the pay-per-view model.

Publishers have very different content mixed together on one platform. That doesn’t mean there needs to be a single monetization strategy for the entire platform. For example, here’s what the strategy could look like instead:

  • Advertising: global news stories

  • Premium: political analysis column

  • Freemium: video content and interviews with intermittent ads and paid service to remove the ads

  • Sachet packs: football content on the week of the national football league final

  • Pay-per-view: live blog or stream of a local sporting event

Every publication’s content and audience is different, which means mixing and matching these models would be different for each publication. For example, one interesting mechanism we’ve seen used by a publisher was to put up a paywall to content where there’s a steep spike in traffic to local news stories.

The reason why people read different journalistic pieces is different. If I’m interested in only one specific story on a local scandal, I’m not going to pay for a monthly subscription. On the other end, if I’m a football fanatic, paying to get real-time updates on preparations from teams ahead of the season’s final match may be worth it.


Can you think of a payment method that Apple, Google, Spotify and Netflix use, but newspapers don’t? It’s direct carrier billing.

The reason why streaming services (but also app stores, game developers and many other digital content segments) use carrier billing is its reach and simplicity. Anyone with a mobile device can make payments, and no personal data is collected during the checkout process.

Testing pricing, business models and different monetization strategies only leads to higher conversion if people don’t close the payment window after making the initial decision to purchase. Would you be willing to enter your credit card details online to make a $1 payment?

Below, we’ve provided a side-by-side comparison of how a payment looks like for Germany’s newspaper Die Welt with credit cards and how it would look like with carrier billing. They don’t use carrier billing today, but if they did, here’s how it would work:

Credit card and direct carrier billing comparison for digital publishers - Die Welt

Filling out 4 fields to complete the payment for credit cards may not seem much. But as anyone who’s done online marketing knows: the more fields in the form, the lower the conversion. With carrier billing, users don’t need to enter any information at all, other than their phone number.

Another important aspect to consider for European publishers is strong authentication, resulting from the PSD2 directive. Starting at the end of this year, bank-based payment processors will need to start adding additional authentication steps to payment flows. Carrier billing is exempt from this requirement. Credit card conversion is already much lower than that of carrier billing and this change will impact publishers who only used card-based payments significantly.

Even in extremely well-banked regions such as Sweden, we have seen 20% of subscribers opting to pay through carrier billing for our digital publishing customers. Whether it’s due to the simpler checkout flow, fears over personal identity theft. For more information on how direct carrier billing and telco partnerships help publishers grow, check out our recent white paper.

In summary…

Looking at the performance of streaming services, there’s no question today as to whether people are willing to pay for digital content.

For publishers, the main challenge is to figure out what other digital content segments are doing differently that results in conversion rates multiple times higher than that of newspapers. Among other things, pricing, business models and alternative payment methods are crucial components to look at.

If you’re a digital publisher looking to grow your paywall revenue through carrier billing or your user base through telco bundling, check out what PayRead has to offer. Or simply get in touch.

Telefonica & Fortumo white paper: maximizing carrier billing revenue with prepaid subscribers

Telefonica & Fortumo white paper: maximizing carrier billing revenue with prepaid subscribers

Telcos today are critical components in the digital entertainment ecosystem. Companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Spotify partner with telcos in order to grow their revenue (carrier billing payments) and user base (co-marketing deals through bundling).

However, carrier billing and bundles are not always made available to the entire telco subscriber base. In some cases, telcos decide to launch digital merchant partnerships only for their postpaid customers. While the reasons for focusing on postpaid make sense, this means a significant portion of their subscriber base is unable to access premium digital content.

There are more than 5 billion mobile users in the world, and the vast majority of use a prepaid SIM card: 62% in Brazil, 96% in Nigeria and 97% in Indonesia. Even in mature markets such as Germany, prepaid SIM card ownership is at 39%. This means focusing enabling carrier billing and bundles only for postpaid audiences limits the revenue and user growth digital merchants are looking for when launching telco partnerships.

In this white paper, we explain why telcos currently avoid enabling digital services for their prepaid audience, how the actual performance of digital services with the prepaid audience looks like with data from Telefonica, and challenges related to prepaid can be overcome.

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3 reasons carrier billing helps streaming services grow their revenue

3 reasons carrier billing helps streaming services grow their revenue

The streaming service market is saturated, with consumers in the US having to pick between more than 300 streaming services. Even in emerging markets such as India, the choice has become overwhelming with over 30 OTT services to pick from.

Consumers are overloaded with information even before they start to pick which service to use. The last thing they need is a complicated checkout process once they’ve made their choice.

Here are three reasons carrier billing helps streaming services grow their revenue and provide their customers with simple access to content, as shown in the video below:

Streaming services are seeing increased growth from telco channels

The portion of streaming service revenue coming from partner channels is steadily growing. Bundle partnerships and re-selling provide streaming companies with access to a new user base, backed by the partners’ marketing capabilities. Amazon recently indicated telco partnerships as one of the key reasons for their streaming services being successful in the Indian market.

In the context of TV provider and telco partnerships, direct carrier billing is an obvious choice. The partner already has the consumer’s payment information on file. This means they can be easily transitioned from a free trial to a paid package without any interruption to the consumer.

Carrier billing is tailored for impulse purchases and microtransactions

Live events are the fastest growing content segment for streaming services. Consumers want to get access to time-sensitive content as quickly as possible, whether it’s the Football World Cup, the weekly cricket match or a live concert from their favourite artist.

Buying access to such content is often done as an impulse purchase, which means the checkout needs to be as fast as possible. If the consumer becomes bogged down in entering their home address, credit card number and other irrelevant details, they are likely to seek out a pirated stream of the same event.

Time-sensitive content is sold on a pay-per-view basis, which means the transaction size is often quite small. Credit cards involve a percentage-based fee (around 2%) and a fixed fee for each transaction (usually around $0.3). This makes it difficult for streaming services to test out sachet pricing and smaller value content, which is especially important for emerging markets.

Carrier billing on the other hand provides a frictionless payment flow so the users don’t have the need to seek out the content elsewhere, and there are no fixed fees involved.

International audiences are fragmented and require custom approaches

Globally, only 18% of people have a credit card. For any streaming service with the aim to reach international audiences, this requires supporting local payment methods which consumers have access to.

Any payment method integrated needs to support local currencies, languages and multiple models of business (trials, pay-per-view, sachet pricing and subscriptions). In many cases (such as Boleto Bancario in Brazil and the digital wallets in South-East Asia) lack some of these crucial capabilities.

Carrier billing is in a unique spot as it is available globally in more than 100 countries. But at the same time it’s local: every telco in each country is integrated directly, which includes supporting local currencies, localized checkout flows and features that support the varied business models of streaming services.

If you want to learn more about how carrier billing and bundling solutions are helping streaming services grow their revenue, download our white paper on the topic below.

August summary: the biggest digital ecosystem news stories of the month

August summary: the biggest digital ecosystem news stories of the month

September has started, the kids are back to school and time to continue with educating ourselves as well. Below, we’ve brought out the biggest digital ecosystem news stories from August. If that’s not enough, make sure to also check out our TV bundling white paper.

General mobile


Digital publishing

E-commerce & transportation



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