Mobile e-mail software firm signs North African deal

Synchronica makes its second deal in the Arab world, receiving an order for its mobile e-mail software from a North African operator.

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Synchronica, the mobile technology company, has made its second deal in the Arab world, receiving an order for its mobile e-mail software from a North African operator. The company did not disclose the name of the operator, but said it would begin rolling out the services to customers in the coming month. Synchronica, which is listed on the Alternative Investments Market (AIM) in London, produces Mobile Gateway, a software package that can turn low-end handsets into e-mail devices, using technology such as text messaging and mobile data connections to "push" e-mail to the user.

The software is sold to mobile network operators, who then sell subscriptions to their users. The company believes the biggest market for its product is in the emerging economies of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. "The African telecommunications market is expanding at pace and with growth expected to be faster than any other region over the next three to five years. It is key for Synchronica's strategy," said Carsten Brinkschulte, Synchronica's chief executive.

Selling subscriptions to new services is seen by network operators throughout the region as a crucial way to remain profitable as subscriber growth slows. Customers who use their handsets for more complex services, such as music downloads and mobile e-mail, are less likely to "churn", or move to the competition. At the same time, as mobile usage shifts from a perk among the wealthy to a nearly universal service, the average revenues per user (ARPU) at each big regional operator has declined.

"Operators are looking to use Mobile Gateway to increase ARPU and reduce churn by introducing addictive data services to the mass market," Mr Brinkschulte said. "Unlike many other vendors, we can offer operators products which can address the entire range of handsets, resulting in faster take-up rates and helping to reduce churn, attract new customers and drive additional revenues." The growing popularity in the region of social networking sites has created another use for the company's software. It can now also be used to push updates from services such as Facebook and Twitter, and Synchronica expects this service to prove popular.

One of Synchronica's largest investors is Prince Hussam bin Saud Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, who acquired a 10 per cent stake early last year. A son of the late King Saud, Prince Hussam is the chairman of the Saudi Arabian affiliate of Zain, the regional mobile phone operator based in Kuwait. Zain's Sudanese network is already a Synchronica customer, as is the Nigerian affiliate of MTN, Africa's largest mobile company.