Cellulant was built on airtime billing, back in the days of downloading tunes after sending a premium SMS with a code representing a song.
Now they focus mostly on bill payments with Mpesa as the foundation.
Airtime billing has been around even with the Nokia store as far back as in the Symbian days, with Airtel. Sometime back Microsoft worked with Safaricom to enable airtime billing for app purchases, and that was the first time I ever purchased an app from the stores, it was a podcasts app.
We naturally expected that Google would follow suit quite fast. That didn’t happen. The main drive for airtime billing is to include those who didn’t have credit cards to make online payments. That’s like 95 percent of Kenyans. At least back then.
Fast forward to 2017 and airtime billing is not a thing. What we have instead are APIs by Safaricom as the one method that’s sure to get many covered. Debit and credit cards are still a long way from becoming mainstream, even with the introduction of prepay cards, some not connected to any bank account.
Are we going to see that end now that Safaricom as the leader in mobile money fine tunes their APIs, and naturally, other players coming up with rival solutions?