MTN says that concerns about First National Bank (FNB) entering into its space as mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) would depend on its offerings to the market.
The bank is expected to unveil its plans to launch its own MVNO soon, according to a number of independent sources.
FNB would join Mr Price and Virgin Mobile as the country’s third MVNO and is believed to be partnering with Cell C for network coverage.
MTN Group president and CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa, went as far as to call the bank a competitor should its plans come to fruition.
“You always have to be concerned about a competitor,” Dabengwa told BusinessTech last week, adding, however, that it would also depend on FNB’s offerings.
He also stressed that MVNOs would increasingly feel margin pressures amid an ongoing price war between the three big operators in MTN, Vodacom, and Cell C.
FNB already has the necessary licences to be a telecommunications provider, and can already provide voice and data services. The bank is also one of the largest bulk SMS users and airtime distributors.
It has already sold over 200,000 smart devices since launching in the space in 2011, while it added mobile accessories to its sales line in 2013.
In April, the bank said that while airtime continues to be FNB Service Provider’s strongest pre-paid seller, data bundle purchases have risen sharply over the last three years.
In 2012 data bundles sales were only 6% of airtime sales, however, this figure rose to 12%, it said.
Banks have a data advantage over mobile operators, knowing more about their customers, their financial position and their possible requirements.
Financial institutions are coming under pressure of their own from tech e-commerce giants, social lenders, and mobile operators.
In June, MTN and retailer Pick n Pay announced a new partnership to bring low-cost banking to consumers excluded from the formal banking system. MTN also launched a Mobile Money Visa card for its customers in South Africa.
Through a Pick n Pay SIM card, customers can send and receive money via mobile phone, while also using their accounts to pay municipal bills, purchase prepaid electricity and airtime.
Salaries can be deposited into the account, and there is no minimum balance requirement, MTN said.