Inclusive mobile banking slows innovation as telcos meet ongoing need for legacy features

by | Jun 14, 2022 | Monitoring Solutions, Testing & QA Solutions

Innovation and mobile convenience are key business drivers for mobile financial services globally, but in the developing world, assuring financial inclusion is driving up costs and slowing time to market. This is because developers are constrained by limited functionality on their mobile banking products, in order to meet the needs of hundreds of millions of users who only have access to feature phones, or who choose not to use data-hungry apps on their smartphones.

USSD may be an older GSM technology, but it is still in widespread use for low-cost, inclusive financial services, public service and education.  The GSMA’s State of Mobile Connectivity Report 2021 shows that over 450 million people are not yet covered by mobile broadband, and 43% of the world’s population – or around 4.3 billion people – are not using mobile internet even if they live in areas with mobile broadband coverage. Smartphones accounted for 68% of total mobile connections in 2020 – which means hundreds of millions of people don’t have the devices, data or coverage to move to the richer experience offered by mobile apps.

To deliver inclusive services, telcos and financial services continue to incorporate USSD functionality in their new products, and in much of the developing world, this remains the primary digital channel through which customers transact. This is despite concrete efforts to drive development of modern infrastructure and adoption of broadband technologies – for example, South Africa’s Communications Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, speaking this week at the 2022 World Telecommunication Development Conference in Kigali, announced the South African government’s intentions to completely ban the importation and sale of 2G devices to the country as soon as March 2023.

We expect legacy access technologies such as USSD to remain a dominant feature in much of the developing world for at least another four to five years, and that the transition to mobile apps and 5G will progress gradually. This raises a series of challenges, which can slow innovation and add cost to every new product release. 

The big testing bottleneck

Telcos report that testing new products for USSD and feature phones is proving increasingly time consuming and error prone: with hundreds of product releases or upgrades expected per year, development teams must test each product throughout the development life cycle. For most teams, this is an arduous, manual task.

A typical testing scenario can involve teams of ten or more QA personnel having to go into the office, almost always late at night during off peak hours, to carry out testing at every stage, and then to validate each release. Several hours of testing may be needed in each round, which incurs costs, and impacts the teams who are still required to perform their actual day jobs at the office the next day. Manual documentation and monitoring is also required – typically involving more drawers full of hand sets and SIM cards. Because of the slowness of manual human testing, teams can seldom get through the full suite of service tests, so they test only “top ten” or key services. This approach is error prone, puts quality and performance at risk, and can also cause telcos to lose talented people who are not prepared to work nights throughout the year to competitors who have a more mature testing strategy.

Automating testing for continuous QA

Driven by customer demand, Breakpoint’s solution for mobile financial services and telcos still grappling with these challenges around their legacy digital channels has been to develop Inquest – automated USSD testing that defines, maintains and automatically executes the full suite of complex test cases, end to end, allowing for virtually unlimited simultaneous tests. Inquest rapid testing configures and executes thousands of tests daily, freeing up QA and DevOps resources to focus on product quality instead of repetitive testing. It supports any text based, menu driven applications or channels, such as USSD or Whatsapp, and it is especially powerful in addressing the requirements of User Acceptance Testing for mobile financial services.

Register for a free webinar

Breakpoint is hosting a series of webinar sessions on Test automation for digital services, outlining the current state of testing, common challenges reported by our customers, best practices for test automation of legacy digital channels. We also look at the use cases, benefits and features of Breakpoint’s test automation solution for telcos, financial institutions and other mobile wallet stakeholders, Inquest. Experts demonstrate Inquest’s features and showcase case studies in which customers have achieved measurable benefits.

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