How Telkomsel went from telco to digital lifestyle powerhouse

telkomsel digital lifestyle games
Telkomsel CIO Montgomery Hong onstage at Digital Transformation Asia 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, November 13, 2018. Image credit: TM Forum

As telcos race to digitize and monetize, Indonesian wireless network provider Telkomsel just may have struck gold with its strategy of expanding into today’s popular forms of media, and in particular, gaming. But why gaming?

In his keynote speech at Digital Transformation Asia earlier this week, Telkomsel CIO Montgomery Hong explained the company’s journey from being a traditional telco to a key digital player, including the evolution of its of digital lifestyle offerings.

“Gaming alone is larger than all of Hollywood and American sports leagues combined,” he said. “This is why more and more gaming companies and e-sports are moving to Asia.”

Telkomsel recently launched ‘ShellFire’, an action mobile games app, and also runs its own gaming platforms, its own leagues, has local regional and national competitions, and sponsors three professional gamers that compete around the world.

He explained that some of the company’s key strategies for monetization are variety, volume and velocity. The company looks at where the biggest markets are, or the ones that are growing, and takes full advantage.

“We’re relevant now to the digital market more so than ever because we have more eyeballs than any other platform does,” Hong said.

Telkomsel is a mobile-only company, so is not necessarily facing the challenges and opportunities that come with a fixed-line business. Its edge is effectively the mobile device.

“There’s not a lot of big screen TVs in Indonesia, only about four million households in the country have them,” he said. “Indonesia opens its phone 120 times a day; we know that because we’ve been monitoring. Think about that: 120 times a day, 150 million subscribers. We process a little over 2.5 billion customer interactions a day.”

Beyond gaming, the company is taking full advantage of these numbers, according to Hong:


Telkomsel saw voice and SMS declining, so focused on selling cheap data. “The data payload growth is skyrocketing off the charts, up 120% last year, and down this year to over 100%.”


In mobile finance, Telkomsel recently recently launched a service that allows subscribers to take their mobile wallet from Singapore and pay in Thailand without the need to use a credit card. “So we’re going to go OTT with the banks now. The Philippines is probably third, Indonesia fourth, and we have India as well.”

This means that effectively the company can link its millions of subscribers to all of these economies, and they can change money without needing to worry about currency. “So this is the big plan on interoperability we have.”


The company launched the Mobile World Cup app. More people in Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world, watch World Cup using Telkomsel’s app than any other type of media. “What that does, is collectively overnight, we’re relevant now to the digital market more so than ever before.” And the reason is all the ‘eyeballs’ viewing the app with 1.3 million people logging on at game time.

Beyond the network

The company is producing some of its own content. Its fast-growing platform offers linear TV, video and on-demand sports. It has changed the data model by decoupling the phone number from the app. “We tried to OTT the OTT guys, in the sense that they can be our competitors, but they can also come on to our platform and leverage it. A year ago, no one would play with us; they didn’t want to share data. Now they come onto our platform as they can see anything on it.”

The right path

There are of course many paths a telco can choose to expand to or simply build on existing business, but Hong’s message is clear: Find out where your strengths lie, who your audience is and what they want and need. “We are going to continue thinking about how do we do more around the kind of stuff our customer are looking for,” he said.

From there you can develop your own path to digitization.

Arti Mehta, editor of TM Forum InformWritten by Arti Mehta, editor, TM Forum | Original story posted at TM Forum Inform

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