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Digital Identities - What Role Can MNOs Play in Digital Identity Services?

Mobile connectivity enables us to perform a variety of tasks including making purchases, arranging transport, paying bills and subscriptions and gaining and sharing information almost instantly.
February 23, 2024

We live in a digital-first world. With over 5.1 billion people owning a mobile subscription and 8 billion mobile devices connected to cell networks globally, owning a mobile device is no longer difficult to do, no matter your socioeconomic background.

These figures are only set to continue to go, as it’s estimated that5.8 billion people will own a mobile subscription by 2025.

Mobile connectivity enables us to perform a variety of tasks including making purchases, arranging transport, paying bills and subscriptions and gaining and sharing information almost instantly.

It also has the power to strengthen financial inclusion by offering digital identity services to the unbanked and underbanked in developing markets. However, accessing mobile-based financial services requires secure digital identity verification processes in place to prevent fraud and identity theft - an area MNOs are in a prime position to help with.

Exploring The Real-World Use Cases for Digital Identities

There’s a vast and varied need for digital identity as a service, as it serves multiple purposes.

With mobile devices playing an increasingly centralised role in all of our digital activities, digital identities are becoming more important to ensure the protection of customer information and to prevent cybercrime.

In recent years, hacking and data breaches have become key concerns in safety and transparency online. Data breaches and fraud affect multiple industries, including financial services as well as telecommunications.

Many banks and financial institutions rely on mobile OTP verification as a means of confirming customer identity. However, should a customer’s mobile device fall into the wrong hands or if a fraudster transfers a customer’s phone number to their own sim card, they could easily bypass mobile security checks and access customers’ finances and financial information.

Within telecommunications, subscription fraud, prepaid fraud and illegal purchasing, account hacking and takeover and dealer fraud all remain very real concerns for telcos and MNOs who generally have to subsidise the cost of these criminal activities to prevent losing customers and subscriber churn.  

As key providers and facilitators of communication networks, MNOs are facing pressure from customers and from increasingly complex governmental regulations to create digital identity verification processes that will prevent these kinds of cybercrimes, as well as larger threats like terrorism financing and money laundering.

As compliance requirements become more complex and more widespread, the demand for digital identity processes is rising. It’s also inadvertently making customer onboarding and verification more difficult and time-consuming, as more steps are added and more safety protocols are put in place.

By leveraging their established network, reach and existing customer data, MNOs are in the ideal position to offer digital identity solutions within various identity ecosystems.

How Can MNOs Facilitate Digital Identity As a Service?

Mobile network operators house and protect vast amounts of customer data, using enhanced security and protection protocols to secure network data. As MNOs’ subscriber bases span across countries and even continents, MNOs have an extended reach that can prove beneficial in customer identity management.

MNOs’ access to extensive customer data can also assist in digital identity services. Real-time device data including device location, roaming status, purchase history, billing status and other datasets make it easier for operators to identify potentially suspicious behaviour and fraudulent activities.

By enabling ID verification procedures like fingerprint scanning, biometrics, ID document authentication and facilitation of third-party database authentication and checking, MNOs can provide invaluable digital identity services, not only to their subscribers but as a service on behalf of banks and other regulatory entities.


MNOs looking to retain customers through service expansion may naturally feel hesitant about taking on the risk of offering mobile credit and loans to customers.

Airvantage is one of the largest service providers to MNOs across Africa. We specialise in:

  • Advanced airtime and data lending
  • Mobile wallets and mobile money lending
  • Agent lending and handset finance
  • Financial identity as a service

We take on the risk so you can receive all the benefits.

 If you’re ready to find out how Airvantage can help you develop and offer identity verification processes, book a consultation with us.

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