26 Oct 2010

Rural expansion, broadband and convergence are key to continue growth in North Africa's telecoms market, say speakers at North Africa Com

The annual North Africa Com conference and exhibition opened today in Cairo with a lively keynote session in which representatives of some of the region’s leading operators, ISPs and regulators highlighted the many growth opportunities in the market.
The conference opened with a market overview from Mai Barakat, Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, who said that “the opportunities in North Africa lie in rural expansion, converged services and the data market; Egypt remains the region’s largest market in terms of subscription counts followed by Algeria and Morocco”.
Her presentation was followed by Michel Monzani, Senior VP of Orange France Telecom Group, who described his company’s vision for the region, in particular its new investments in Tunisia and Morocco. The group’s strategy is “to build roots to remain strong in difficult times (reducing costs, maintaining investment, working with solid local partners) while working on new sources of growth such as service innovation”.
Representing one of the region’s most talked-about markets, Cherif Yaici, Chief Strategy Officer of Algerie Telecom Group, gave an overview of Algeria’s telecommunications market and of his group’s unique position within it as incumbent and only fixed-line operator. In terms of commercial development, Algerie Telecom is focusing of corporate customers, broadband access and call centres. On the technical side, the company is migrating its network to IP, developing the national backbone, deploying Fttx and launching new services such as IPTV, VoD, VoIP and more.
Fadel Deguam gave a regulator’s perspective with an update on the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Egypt. He said that the NTRA’s primary objectives are to ensure free competition, while maintaining “the right balance between accountability (to protect consumers and fulfil the interests of the state) and flexibility to attract investment and promote innovation”.
The morning’s discussions also included talks on building international connectivity and increasing capacity in the region, with contributions from representatives of Vivendi, Corning International Fibre, Acision and Egyptsat.
The afternoon’s conference is divided into two separate sessions: one on network evolution to LTE, and one on new revenue streams, with contributions from representatives of operators, ISPs, telecoms solutions vendors and consultants.
The second day will continue to look at strategies to continue growth in the region’s markets, with a keynote presentation from Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Vodafone Egypt, and contributions from operators Telecom Egypt, Mobinil, MDC Lebanon (managing firm for Vivacell Sudan), LinkedonLine and other companies specialising in the region’s market.
In addition to the conference, participants enjoyed many opportunities to network with their peers in the exhibition. Over 500 participants are expected over the two days of the event (with over 350 in attendance on the first morning), and 25 countries are represented in the audience, showing the high degree of interest in the region’s market.

11 Oct 2010

Africa tops half billion subs in 3Q10

Mobile subscriptions passed the 500 million mark in Africa during 3Q10, according to the latest data from Informa Telecoms & Media. The continent’s mobile subscriptions grew by 18% year-on-year to over 506 million compared to 16% globally. With less than 50% SIM card penetration rate, Africa was still lagging behind all the other regions while the global penetration rate was 74% in 3Q10. Africa’s mobile subscriptions contributed to 10% of global subscriptions.

Growth is not restricted to the cellular voice market. There are signs that demand for data services is also increasing. The construction of a series of new submarine cables is bringing profound change by increasing the amount of international capacity available to the coasts of East and West Africa, and crucially bringing down costs. There is evidence too of the rise in usage of mobile value-added services. Informa estimates the size of the non-voice market to have been worth US$4.8 billion in 2009, with this figure set to rise in 2010 to in excess of US$5.5 billion. Data revenues now represent 9% of total service revenues.

An innovative response required from across the industry
Regulators are encouraging initiatives to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural Africa.  Mobile operators are transforming their business structures so as to focus more on what is core to operational delivery.  In response, vendors across the value chain are beginning to showcase solutions to meet the challenges of Africa’s telecoms landscape.

It is likely that service providers become more innovative by launching dynamic tariff plans, segmenting the market to deepen their value offering or by building brand through entering into partnership with content providers.  The use of data services is expected to continue to transform society, by connecting rural communities to ICT services, giving hundreds of millions of unbanked some financial muscle and providing a stronger technology infrastructure for the SME business segment.  All in the ICT value chain have their part to play in this ongoing transformation.

Business leaders join to set the way forward
It is these market changes that will form the backdrop to discussions and learning at Africa’s largest annual congress and exhibition – the 13th annual AfricaCom taking place in Cape Town on 10-11 November 2010.  4,000+ decision-makers from operators, solutions and technology providers serving across the continent will meet to collaborate in driving this new phase of growth.

The strategic congress will gather a select 2,000 business leaders from the attendee list for a 2 day programme of discussions and idea sharing around the broad outline of “Driving the Next Stage of Growth in African Telecoms“.  Sessions cover broad strategic answers to driving growth and predicting trends alongside more specific topics including: Efficiency and ROI Strategies; LTE; VAS; Marketing, Pricing and Loyalty; Mobile Money; Fibre Optics; Broadband Data Services; WiMAX; and Capacity & Wholesale. 
Africa’s telecom leaders reveal their strategies and ideas

Leading discussions at AfricaCom, are a panel of 100 of Africa’s most significant telecoms leaders including:
• Ahmad Farroukh, Vice President, MTN West and Central Africa
• Themba Khumalo, CEO, MTN Uganda
• Serame Taukobong, Chief Marketing Officer, MTN South Africa
• Marc Rennard, Executive Vice President for Africa, the Middle East & Asia, Orange Group
• Nkateko Nyoka, Chief Officer - Regulatory & Stakeholder Relations, Vodacom Group
• Wessel Van der Vyver, General Manger, Telecom Namibia International
• Mickael Ghossein, CEO, Orange Telkom Kenya
• Etienne Kouadio, Managing Director, Alink Telecom Cote D'Ivoire
• Jose dos Santos, CEO, Vodacom Mozambique
• Chiruyi Walingo, Chief Commercial Officer, Zain Tanzania
• Hussein Rifaii, Chairman & Managing Director, MDC
• Noel Herrity, CEO, Zantel Tanzania
• Serame Taukobong, Chief Marketing Officer, MTN South Africa
• Dr Angus Hay, Chief Technology Officer, Neotel South Africa
• Paul Edwards, Chairman, Starcomms Nigeria
• Nazar H Sahal, Information Technology Director, Expresso Telecom Group Ltd

International vendors rise to the challenge
Some of the world’s foremost solutions and technology providers have responded to market conditions and developed a portfolio and solutions and services that meet the challenges of Africa’s telecoms landscape.  The 250 stand market place exhibition at AfricaCom will showcase the cream of these companies to the 4,000 attendees.  This creates a unique opportunity for telcos from across Africa to see the full product offering in one place to help them make better technology decisions.

It is expected that this year’s AfricaCom will play a pivotal role in bringing the continent’s ICT value chain together to assist this ongoing market transformation.

24 Sep 2010

MTN confirms top speakers at AfricaCom

MTN Group, the leading provider of communications services in Africa and sponsor of this year's AfricaCom, has confirmed its top speakers at the event.
Ahmad Farroukh, Vice President for the West and Central Africa Region, will give the Leading Operator Interview in the opening keynote of the event. He will answer questions from the moderator and the audience on MTN's regional strategies for the next stage of growth in Africa: key growth markets, opportunities for expansion and M&A activities, business models, operational strategy, target segments.
Themba Khumalo, CEO of MTN Uganda, will give a presentation in the Mobile Money session, looking more particularly at the mobile money ecosystem in Africa and sharing his experience of such services.
Serame Taukobong, Chief Marketing Officer of MTN South Africa will join the Content Panel in the Value-Added Services session on the second day of the event. He will discuss the impact of the FIFA World Cup on MTN's mobile content services and revenues.
MTN will have a stand in the exhibition and are a sponsor of the AfricaCom Awards as well.

6 Sep 2010

Innovation is key in Africa's telecoms - Hear from leaders on how they foster it within their businesses

As mentioned by my colleague Nick Jotischky, innovation is a crucial part of Africa's telecoms market, and the continent is renowned for having been at the forefront of new technologies and services; mobile financial services are probably the best example of a new service finding its first major market success in Africa.
Despite the continent's status as a developing market, or probably more because of it, companies operating in Africa have to be more innovative than in other parts of the world, because they have to offer attractive services with sometimes little financial support, for a customer base that generally has low spending power.
That is why the programme of this year's AfricaCom includes a keynote session dedicated to innovation. It will start with a 'Leadership Roundtable' on how operators adapt their strategies to changing market conditions, with contributions from Jose dos Santos, CEO of Vodacom Mozambique (whose presentation on 'services for the low-end market' was a great success in 2008, as well as his contribution to the CEO panel last year), Gaurav Anand, VP Africa at Tata Communications (bringing the point of view of a wholesale carrier and owner of dynamic fixed-line operator Neotel), and Hussein Rifai, Chairman and Managing Director of telecom management group MDC (which owns among others Vivacell in Sudan).
The session will also include a perspective from outside Africa, with a presentation from Ashish Thomas, director of Singtel Group Innovation, a division of the pan-Asian operator group dedicated to tackling innovation and creating new opportunities for the group.
And to include the latest company looking to bring a fresh perspective on operations in Africa, the group of speakers will also be joined by a senior representative of Airtel Africa. The speaker will be announced in the days to come so keep an eye on this blog!

24 Aug 2010

Africa Com launches it's record breaking, 13th annual congress agenda

We’ve now been running and growing our flagship event, AfricaCom for 13 years and there has been much excitement surrounding our recent launch of this year’s conference agenda. We’ve taken on board a lot of the requests from last year’s attendees to broaden the list of topics that delegates can choose from, particularly introducing new topics previously not covered in what started as a purely mobile centric event.

Coming under the overarching umbrella of “Driving the Next Stage of Growth in African Telecoms“ we’ve included topics spanning all aspects of the continent’s ecosystem including some new “hot” technologies yet to hit the market. Special Focus sessions include Efficiency and ROI Strategies; LTE; VAS; Marketing, Pricing and Loyalty; Mobile Money; Fibre Optics; Broadband Data Services; WiMAX; and Capacity & Wholesale Africa.

We’ve worked hard to ensure that our speaker panel broadens in step with the congress agenda. The speaker line-up has reached the golden landmark of 100 and new names are coming on board every week. All in all we’re hoping that this is going to be AfricaCom at it’s best yet!

30 Apr 2010

More M&A activity in Africa as the continent's telecoms retain strong growth

According to my colleague Matt Reed, preparing an M&A strategy is one of the top 10 priorities operators should look at to succeed in Africa’s telecoms market. Looking at the news in the past couple of weeks, it seems that the major groups operating on the continent are already actively working on this strategy.
Since Bharti announced its acquisition of the African operations of Zain, the deal hasn’t gone as smoothly as it could have been. In Nigeria, Zain’s operation is still the subject of an ownership battle; this is the continent’s largest market and the main source of revenue among Zain’s African assets, so it is crucial in the group's success. In the smaller markets of Gabon and Congo, government authorities are objecting to the buy-out of one of their leading operators without being consulted and are threatening to suspend the operators’ licences. Are these mere hiccups or will they seriously affect Bharti’s strategy in Africa?
MTN, which Bharti spent most of 2008-2009 in failed discussions with, is still on the expansion trail. The pan-African group is now talking to Egypt-based Orascom about its African operations in Algeria, Tunisia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Namibia and Zimbabwe. This would potentially create the world’s 3rd largest mobile operator, but Algerian authorities are currently opposing the deal. Algeria is one of the most promising markets left in Africa, with a large young population and 3G services which have yet to be licensed. Without Algeria, the MTN-Orascom deal would lose a lot of its appeal.
Orange/France Telecom posted its financial results this week, and despite lower overall revenues, its African operations registered considerable growth. With this in mind, the group’s new CEO Stéphane Richard also announced a plan to invest 7 billion euros in Africa and the Middle East in the next five years. Orange already has a strong presence in French-speaking Africa: its latest launch was a triple play service provider in Tunisia, but its main presence is in West Africa, where it seems it would concentrate most of its efforts.
Saudi group STC has also expressed an interest in Africa for expansion in the last few days, continuing the trend (reversed only by Zain) of Middle Eastern groups eyeing Africa as the next place for growth.
M&A activity and regional groups’ strategies on the continent will continue to be major topics of discussion at events in the Com World Series, with among others interviews from regional group representatives of Zain and MTN at West & Central Africa Com in Senegal in June, an event dedicated to Nigeria’s market in September, a special focus on Algeria’s market at North Africa Com in October, and keynote sessions on investment and operators’ strategies at AfricaCom in November.

22 Apr 2010

5 questions to Robert Aouad, CEO of ISP Isocel Telecom in Benin

Thanks to the launch of several submarine cables connecting it to Europe et the rest of Africa, Western and Central Africa is soon to experience dramatically improved internet access. This will no doubt give a great opportunity for new operators and Internet Service Providers to create a niche in the region's telecoms market. More particularly, it will improve access to communications for all, particularly for underserved segments such as the young and people on low income.
Robert Aouad is one of those entrepreneurs who has spotted the huge potential for alternative service providers to deliver internet access to the region. He is the main promoter of the ISOCEL project, launched in 2004 and which after 4 months became the first private ISP in Benin after the incumbent. ISOCEL is currently in the process of deploying similar wireless networks in six secondary cities in Benin and operate and manage ICT community centers.
Robert will be a panellist at the West & Central Africa Com cognress in Dakar in June, where he will share his thoughts on how fixed-Line, mobile & wireless operators can deliver reliable and affordable broadband services in the region. As an advance preview of the message he will put forward at the event, he answers five questions for us.

What are the key trends in West & Central Africa’s telecommunications market today?
The telecommunications market in West & Central Africa tends towards a radical transformation in the next 10 years, with increased competition among mobile operators, particularly as ARPU is diminishing. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of new subscribers will come from a low-revenue segment living in remote areas. This will push the sector’s stakeholders to make up for this decrease in revenues by offering other value-added services, mainly access to mobile internet.

What are the key markets trends to watch and why?
It would be interesting to observe the arrival of new generation technologies and their adoption in a larger market, such as WiMAX, HSDPA, CDMA EV-DO Rev B etc. After a few years, we will have a better understanding of which of these different technologies are most successful and if they have a sustainable business model.

How has the global economic situation affected your market, and how has your company responded to it?
We are lucky to be in a market which is still largely under-exploited. This means that we haven’t felt the consequences of the global economic situation, which hasn’t affected our growth in terms of subscribers and revenues. On the other hand, we operate in a market where the buying power is among the lowest and this has always forced us to create products and services that are affordable for our target customers.

Which services or technologies are likely to have the biggest impact on the market in the years to come?
It is certain that mobile internet access will have a remarkable growth but the success of 3rd and 4th generation technologies will be confronted with issues of available capacity when the number of users grows exponentially. We also hope that the MVNO model will be adopted massively by countries in West & Central Africa as it represents a win-win partnership for actual and virtual operators.

How important is the West & Central Africa Com congress for the region’s telecoms industry and what do you expect to take out of the event?
Like every year, the West & Central Africa Com congress is an occasion to meet the main stakeholders in the telecommunications market and to hear about the new market trends. The fact that the event is taking place in a French-speaking country will probably encourage more operators from the region to participate.

16 Apr 2010

New event NigeriaCom launched at a crucial time for Nigeria's telecoms market

The ash cloud from Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull is still causing a standstill in Northern European airports, and as a result two of my colleagues are extending their stay in Nigeria’s business capital Lagos.
They are there to meet operators and vendors to talk about forthcoming event NigeriaCom, which will take place at the newly built Eko conference centre in Lagos on 28th and 29th September. The event is a new addition to the Com World Series: in 2008 and 2009, the West & Central Africa Com event took place in Nigeria’s administrative capital Abuja, and is now returning to Dakar in Senegal. Feedback from the event concluded that Nigeria was such a booming telecoms market that it required a specific event, while West & Central Africa Com could have a more truly regional feel if located in a relatively smaller market. The idea is proving successful, as both events are attracting high levels of interest from operators, investors, regulators and vendors.
The Dakar event is supported by Senegal’s Minister of Telecommunications, ICT, and Transports Abdourahim Agne, who will preside the opening session. The programme includes representatives from 25 operators, including the major groups investing in the region (MTN, Zain, Orange, Etisalat, Lintel/Africell, Bintel, Intercel), as well as leading telecom solutions vendors (Ericsson, Qualcomm, Corning, Helios Towers, ECI Telecom) and international carriers (Belgacom, Telenor).
The NigeriaCom programme is still being finalised, but it has already received the support of Nigeria’s major operators: already confirmed speakers include the CEOs of MTN Nigeria (Ahmed Farroukh), Starcomms (Maher Qubain), Etisalat Nigeria’s (Steven Evans), Pinet Informatics (Lanre Ajayi) and senior representatives from Zain.
The event will be held at a crucial time in Nigeria’s telecoms market: thanks to the launch of new submarine cables, operators will be able to launch better and more affordable broadband services, which are in great demand. At the same time, they are still to an extent struggling to improve their networks in order to deliver acceptable quality of service and coverage. In addition to these changes, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), will have a new head this year. Ernest Ndukwe, who led the market’s liberalisation and promoted a healthy competitive environment for its stakeholders, came to the end of his 10-year tenure earlier this year. He is currently replaced by Stephen Adedayo Bello as Acting Executive Vice Chairman, and a new head is expected to be announced in the next few months, if not weeks.
NigeriaCom will definitely be a great place to gauge the market’s mood, to discuss its operators' strategies, and hopefully to meet the new executive team at the helm of the NCC.

9 Apr 2010

Acknowledging the importance of cultural factors and face-to-face engagement when doing business in different regions of the world

In today’s world of global networking and instant communication, it is easy to forget the importance of regional or national cultural differences in the way people and companies do business.
Moving from France to the UK provided me my first experience of a different way of working, where hierarchy was less important and individual initiative was more valued. In the last few years, I have worked on events in very different parts of the world, particularly in emerging markets with the Com World Series, and witnessed other approaches to business. In some regions, personal contacts are the only way to do business, and relationships take years to build, while in others people are very open to making new contacts and exchanging ideas from a first conversation. In others still, it is crucial to know the right people in order to make any kind of contact, let alone meaningful conversation.
I was shown an interesting tool to begin to understand how different regions approach social interactions and business: Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions. The model researches countries and region according to 5 parameters affecting their approach to business: Power Distance Index (the extent to which power and hierarchy is important), Individualism (the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups), Masculinity (the distribution of roles between genders), Uncertainty Avoidance Index (a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity) and Long-Term Orientation. It didn’t come as a surprise to me that societies such as the USA and the UK have high degrees of individualism, low power distance and low long-term orientation, while the opposite is seen in China.
Models such as these are interesting tools to examine when doing business in different regions, but I have to say that not all companies are attuned to these differences. It may be a reason why Chinese and Indian companies are being successful in doing business in Africa for instance, where the cultural dimensions are relatively similar, which is not always the case for Western companies.
There is one common point between all regions though: nothing can replace face-to-face engagement when building business relationships. This is why events such as conferences and exhibitions are still a great way to meet clients. When producing congresses around the world, the Com World Series endeavours to stay tuned to local differences, and to deliver events that provide the right type of interaction in order to facilitate networking and business. Some events such as West & Central Africa Com focus on facilitating discussion; others such as South East Asia Com provide more formal in-depth learning; and others focus more on high-level networking with more VIP features, such as the Middle East Telco World Summit. The fine-tuning of conference programmes and congress experience takes time and research to get right, and the most rewarding thing is to hear participants' feedback on how an event gave them a clearer picture of their market opportunities or helped them develop their business in a region.

29 Mar 2010

Operators focus on return on investment in the recovery from the economic downturn

Last week’s Eurasia Com event in Istanbul was a one of the most enjoyable I’ve been to in the last months. Not only was it hosted in one of the world’s most vibrant cities - Istanbul - but the event itself had the perfect mix of learning from telecoms leaders and of networking.
After final count, over 600 people attended the event over the 2 days, sharing their time between the conference sessions and networking in the exhibition . The interesting point about this number is that different crowds attended each day, making it possible to make new contacts at each break or lunch, or indeed in the drinks reception which took place at the Conrad Hotel's Summit Bar, offering fantastic views over the Bosphorus. The audience was composed of representatives of the whole telecoms ecosystem (operators, vendors, regulators, brands etc.) from Turkey, the CIS, the Black Sea region and neighbouring markets.
The debates covered the key issues that concern all stakeholders in the telecoms market : operators’ strategies, evolution of the telecoms ecosystem, increasing competition, broadband strategies, value-added services, convergence, customer growth and retention. However, it seems that the tone of the discussions has changed in the last year.
In 2009, telecoms players were justly concerned by the global economy and the fall in revenue it caused. As a result, they were looking at cost-reduction strategies to avoid losses. Last week, they put the emphasis on ensuring return on investment instead, possibly a more positive way of approaching the market's challenges. Most of them (particularly the Turkish operators such as Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea) have kept their network investments up during the downturn, and now they are focusing on ensuring that they generate returns. As Ineke Botter, CEO of Bakcell in Azerbaijan summed up: “if an investor invests a quarter of a million dollars in a network, you have to make sure it’s followed up by revenues”. This focus on ROI means operators are looking more closely at addressing new market segments (rural areas, youth, mature customers, enterprises), improving loyalty strategies to up-sell to existing customers, service innovation such as mobile marketing, and joint ventures with other industries such as the banking sector for m-commerce.
The conference included a mix of presentations, case studies and lively discussions, with plenty of opportunities to develop next year’s programme with new topics. If you were there and would like to give some feedback, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

19 Mar 2010

Is South East Asia the leading emerging market in terms of LTE opportunities?

Last month Singapore mobile operator MobileOne (M1) announced that it managed to successfully complete a 100 Mbps data call on its trial LTE (Long Term Evolution) network. According to the operator, this made it the first South Asian operator to achieve the milestone while using commercial LTE hardware and software.
LTE is rapidly becoming a hot technology even in emerging markets, and one of the most promising is that of South East Asia. HSPA networks have been deployed in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and LTE is the next step for operators to deliver better, faster mobile broadband services. That is why this year's South East Asia Com congress (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20-21 July) will include a whole focus day on LTE.
The session will offer a comprehensive programme of presentations, case studies and discussions. Leading operators and industry players across the ecosystem (including Indar Atmanto, President Director of PT Indosat Mega Media, Indonesia) will share their experience and expertise on how to drive the broadband leadership towards revenue growth in the LTE space.
Key topics include:
- Status Of Next Generation Fixed & Wireless Broadband In Asia Pacific
- Exploring LTE Opportunities For Implementing Next Generation Services & Creating A Successful Business Case For LTE
- Examining LTE Standards, Spectrum Allocation Challenges & Evolution Paths For LTE Development
- Uncovering The Full Commercial Potential of LTE Through New Revenue Streams
- Evaluating Deployment Strategies, Challenges & Timescales In Planning LTE Network & System Architecture
- Paving The Way Towards 4G Vision In South East Asia
We are still looking for case studies and presentations for this session, so don't hesitate to get in touch for more information.

12 Mar 2010

Turkcell financial results are down, but it is still a leader in Eurasia

The announcement of Turkish giant Turkcell’s financial results was met with varying degrees of concern. The results shown were down: the group’s net income dropped by 45% for the fourth quarter, and 25.9% for the full year. Most reports pointed out that this was explained in part by a reimbursement based on previously announced regulatory decisions. But lower operational profitability is another reason. In addition, the various components of the group show different pictures: while ISP Superonline “successfully increased its revenues by 58% to TRY252 million (TRY160 million) and recorded a positive full year EBITDA for the first time” according to Turkcell’s announcement, the contribution of the group’s subsidiaries Astelit in Ukraine and Inteltek in Turkey were the major culprit in the decrease.
The group cited “Intensifying challenges in the macroeconomic, competitive and regulatory environment” to explain its impaired operational and financial performance in 2009, but this wasn't enough to reassure investor TeliaSonera (which owns 37.1% of the group as the main shareholder), as CEO Lars Nyberg is said to have called for a board meeting “to solve this problem”.
However, the situation isn't too bad for Turkcell. It has a presence across Eurasia, and a top position in the dynamic Turkish market, not only in the telecoms market but also as one of the major Turkish brands. In addition, its innovative strategy in terms of technology and services is unrivalled by other operators - Turkcell proudly announced last week(possibly trying to distract from the attention caused by its finances) that it was among the first operators in the world to reach a speed of 42.2Mbps with its 3G technology. All in all, Turkcell isn’t likely to lose its leadership any time soon.
One of the group’s top executives, Tayfun Cataltepe (Chief Corporate Strategy & Regulations Officer), will give a keynote presentation at EurasiaCom in Istanbul later next week, which will give an insight in the group's future strategy. It is part of a new Turkey Focus Day at the event, looking at the opportunities and trends in this very dynamic market. The event will also include contributions from Turkey and Eurasia’s leading operators, from regional groups (MTS, Altimo) to national incumbents (Turk Telekom, RomTelecom, Tajiktelecom, KyrgyzTelecom), competitive mobile operators (Vodafone Turkey, Bakcell Azerbaijan, Vtel Georgia), alternative service providers and ISPs (Altel Kazakhstan, wi-tribe, koç.net, SuperOnline, Borusan Telekom, Doğan Telekom), and more.
This event will be a great occasion to gauge the state of the market in the region and the future opportunities within it, from the point of view of investment, technology and services.

5 Mar 2010

Nigeria’s broadband market set to boom thanks to improved international connectivity

The last few weeks have abounded with news on Nigeria’s telecoms market, from the announcement of the departure of regulator Ernest Ndukwe to company launches and announcements relating to submarine cable projects.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest communications market, and the eighth fastest growing telecommunication market in the world. It offers ideal conditions for continued expansion: a large young population, levels of penetration that leave room for growth (54.8% mobile penetration at the end of 2009, and limited fixed market), favourable regulatory conditions (which were led by Ernest Ndukwe during his 10 year leadership at the Nigerian Communications Commission), high level of investment and a very competitive telecommunications market.
However, it has so far suffered from insufficiencies in the networks and from the lack of international connectivity. But this is changing, thanks to international projects that are coming to fruition this year and will increase available capacity for broadband services. One of them is the Glo 1 submarine cable system landed in Lagos last September, which is due to connect Nigeria to West Africa and Europe. Another is led by Main One Cable; it is in the final stage of deployment of its high capacity fibre-optic cable between Portugal, Ghana and Nigeria, and is due to go live in June this year.
These projects will enable the provision of faster, more broadly available internet services. They will create great opportunities for the major mobile operators (MTN, Zain, Glo, Etisalat), and for the many alternative operators and ISPs such as Starcomms, Zoom Mobile, Pinet Informatics, GiCell Wireless, or new entrant Geoidtel.
A number of them will be speaking at the forthcoming West & Central Africa Com congress to take place in Dakar, Senegal in June. An additional event will be held in Lagos, Nigeria in September, dedicated solely to the trends and opportunities in Nigeria’s market, with representation from the whole market’s ecosystem: fixed, mobile and wireless operators, ISPs, the NCC, government organisation, investors and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to get to know Nigeria’s telecommunications market and meet its leaders.

26 Feb 2010

Mobile Money still championed by emerging markets

Three years after Safaricom launched its pioneer m-Pesa service in Kenya, African operators are still world leaders in the provision of mobile money services. The seemingly simple service, allowing unbanked people to transfer money by text, has allowed countless ordinary people to send money to their loved ones and business partners without hassle, while providing Safaricom with a unique tool to improve customer loyalty. The service was so successful that backer Vodafone launched it in Tanzania, Afghanistan, and announced last week that Vodacom was to launch it in South Africa in partnership with a local bank.
More operators have joined the trend. In January this year, Zain became “the biggest mobile commerce operator in the world in terms of geographical coverage”, by extending its Zap service to Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone (after starting in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). Orange is also addressing the market, with its Orange Money service in West Africa. In North Africa, Maroc Telecom launched MobiCash last month, and Egypt-based group Orascom is partnering with Western Union for a mobile money service.
It is not only large operator groups ‘banking’ on the market: small, Africa-based companies are providing services which could shake up the offer of financial services to consumers. Two interesting examples are to be found in West Africa. Moneyboxafrica, based in Nigeria, is a new savings and payment system based on a scratch card and enabled by any mobile phone. In Sierra Leone, Splash Mobile Money allows clients using Zain, Africell and Comium networks to send money to other mobile users by registering to the Splash system. The Managing Directors of both companies (Adeniyi Elumaro of Moneyboxafrica and Michael Foley of Splash) will join the Mobile Money Panel at the forthcoming West & Central Africa Com congress (Dakar, Senegal, 16-17 June) and will discuss their visions of how to deliver on customers’ needs for better banking services.
The subject of mobile money will feature prominently in some events of this year’s Com World Series. A special session is to be dedicated to the subject at the leading pan-African event AfricaCom, with presentations and a panel discussion from operators, solutions vendors, financial institutions and regulators. In the Middle East event (Dubai, 30th November – 1st December), the topic will be covered as part of the value-added services stream, looking at the mobile money opportunity in markets where needs are different from those found in Africa: on the one hand, mobile money transfer is a valuable service for the large immigrant workforce wishing to send money home to their families, while on the other hand the high end of the customer base will be looking at more advanced m-commerce services. At Americas Com (Rio, Brazil, 30th June – 1st July), a panel discussion will address the challenges and opportunities for the mobilization of payments and remittances in Latin America.
The discussions will certainly cover how the services are adapted to different market conditions, regulatory environments, and distribution networks. It will be interesting to see if and how mobile money services will evolve from simple money transfers to more advanced mobile commerce services.

22 Feb 2010

As Bharti tries another move into Africa, is the Indian operator business model transposable there?

Outsourcing, managed services, and more generally cost-reduction strategies have been major areas of interest in African telecoms markets in the past couple of years, as the decline in ARPU levels started to have a impact on revenues which was not compensated as much by the organic growth experienced until then. African operators began to work on their costs and look more closely at their margins rather. At last year’s AfricaCom congress, Zain Africa’s Chris Gabriel gave a keynote speech in which he presented the key points for a sustainable business models: scale and efficiency were at the top of his list, and most operators investing in Africa would have agreed.
Indian operators are renowned for business models that excel at optimising scale and efficiency, in order to achieve strong margins in very low-ARPU markets. The “Indian model” has been praised as the champion of emerging markets, and it is no wonder that it is often mentioned as one to emulate in Africa. Indeed, a number of Indian companies have been trying to enter the continent, with Essar in East Africa, Tata in South Africa and, as announced this month, Bharti in talks with Zain group to buy its African operations. The move would make sense, as Bharti would bring its knowledge of low revenue markets to operations which need a shake-up. In particular, it could develop interesting value-added services, for example on the content side. I met an Indian VAS vendor who was talking enthusiastically about how mobile content is driven by the same two obsessions in India and Africa: music and sport (although the sports people are so passionate about are different: cricket in India and football in Africa).
But is it as straightforwad as it sounds? Talking about the Bharti-Zain news with participants at Mobile World Congress last week, I heard some questions about how easily Bharti could work its magic in Africa. The company has limited experience of the continent - or indeed of any market outside India – and working cultures are very different. In India, Bharti can count on a relatively well-trained workforce, which will be harder to find in some African markets, unless it brings in its own staff. In addition, it would be unfair to say that Zain hasn’t attempted the so-called Indian model in its markets, outsourcing key areas to reduce costs and concentrate on selling services. But the group’s efforts haven’t been as rewarded as its backers hoped for, and some of its operations have amounted huge debt.
Changing business models, and the new ownership trends in Africa’s telecoms markets, will certainly be key topics of discussion at this year’s African events in the Com World Series. We are currently drafting the programmes for the new NigeriaCom event in Lagos in September, and for the annual AfricaCom in Cape Town in November. Now is the time to get in touch and give your input.

12 Feb 2010

As the mobile world is getting ready for its annual fest in Barcelona, what are the key trends in emerging markets?

It’s been an annual date on the telecoms calendar for decades now, and it was once the place where emerging markets were championed. As most of the world’s operators, vendors and analysts will be present at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I am expecting it to still be a good place to discuss the major trends in the sector. However it seems that this year’s event is looking mostly at the Northern hemisphere and may not address the issues in markets of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America. Even Asia seems a bit short-changed, as China is very well represented on the keynotes and by its vendors, but South-East Asia doesn’t appear as prominently.So, I’ll be spending my week finding out about how the issues addressed at Mobile World Congress relate to emerging markets. Here are my first thoughts/questions
LTE features heavily on the programme and on analysts’ bets on the most talked-about subject. It is indeed a big topic, particularly as TeliaSonera launched the world’s first LTE network in December. It is also big news in Asia, where operators in even the more emerging markets of Indonesia and the Philippines have committed to LTE deployments. It will be interesting to see what is said about the opportunities for these markets, particularly as we are working on a special LTE Focus Day at our next South East Asia Com event (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20-21 July). I am also interested in hearing what the LTE opportunities are for Africa. Some markets such as Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, have already seen the launch of HSPA or HSPA+ services, but when will operators need to start thinking of LTE? Most of the continent already has 3G, and there is demand for internet services, but the lack of disposable income is still an issue for the take-up of data offerings. As for Latin America, a relative late starter for 3G (except in Chile, leading the region’s telecoms sector), when are we to expect operators to start looking into it?
Offering affordable and relevant value-added services is another key area, particularly for emerging markets where voice is still the major services and where ARPU levels can be extremely low. Mobile money has so far been a major success in emerging markets (particularly in sub-Saharan Africa with Safaricom’s m-pesa,, Zain’s Zap and Orange Money), and it will be covered in a day-long session at the opening of the congress. But where else can operator look at? Social networking is raising a lot of interest, but is it applicable outside Western markets? Content is expensive, and often lacking in locally-produced offerings. Mobile marketing is an interesting option, and mobile internet seems the most likely service to increase data usage.
More specifically for the African market, I will be looking at the increasing capacity demand and the evolution of the market, as I am working on the new Capacity & Wholesale event to be co-located with this year’s AfricaCom. New submarine cables will hugely increase the continent’s access to broadband, but there is still work to do to connect the land-locked areas with fibre. Satellite operators still have a strong position in the market despite costly offerings, and it will be interesting to see how they react to new competition. And with the debates on operators’ strategies, their position in the telecom ecosystem, and the rise of managed services and outsourcing, how is the role of wholesale and international carriers evolving?
Finally, I wonder if the organisers will reflect on the recent disaster in Haiti, and include sessions on telecoms in emergency situations. In such times, it is important to remember that access to communications can have a crucial impact on rescue efforts, medical provisions and the logistics of providing aid.

1 Feb 2010

Saudi’s dynamic telecom market encouraged by government initiatives to increase competition and attract foreign investment

2010 starts in a positive note in the Middle East’s telecoms market. A few weeks ago, the IMF announced it was expecting economic growth of close to 4% in the region, boosted by recovery in commodity prices, and at last week’s ITU meeting for the Arab States, GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) fared well in a report on ICT development and growth opportunities.
More particularly, the Saudi market stands out in terms of its market conditions and of the challenges it has to face in the development of its ICT sector.
Despite a relatively high GDP per capita and a large, young population, the telecommunications market had a late start in the kingdom, partly because of its geographical conditions, as vast desert areas and a tough climate make it difficult for infrastructure projects to be viable. Market liberalisation was relatively late too, with second mobile operator Zain launching in 2005 to compete against incumbent STC, and 3rd operator Mobily in 2006.
However in the last few years, the situation has changed and growth opportunities are very encouraging:
- Mobile penetration has boomed to reach well over saturation level
- The fixed–line market is growing: market leader STC is followed by new entrant Atheeb (GO), and possible new launches from PCCW and Verizon
- Mobile broadband is picking up quickly and making up for the relative lack of fixed-line infrastructure, with Mobily leading the market and claiming 100% growth in 6 months in 2009
- WiMAX technology has been being deployed by operators Bayanat Al Oula (now part of Mobily) and ITC
- Competition is due to increase with the possible introduction of MVNOs before the end of 2010.
This dynamism is due in large part to the work of the CITC which, according to the ITU, is one of the most advanced telecoms regulators in the region. It is a crucial part in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT)’s plan for ICT sector development launched in 2005. The plan set targets for the creation of a knowledge-based society, comprising among other objectives: e-Government initiatives, encouraging competition in the telecoms sector, increasing PC and internet penetration and raising foreign investment in ICT projects.
One way of raising foreign investments can be found in the project of Economic Cities, new towns built on Saudi soil to attract businesses and diversify the economy away from oil, with the view of contributing $ 150B to Kingdom's GDP. Economic cities are meant to deliver state-of-the art infrastructure and processes to redefine and showcase new standards around the world. Emaar (the property developer) must offer unparalleled technology with most advanced internet and broadband services for both residential and business customers.
The fact that government targets put foreign investment as a priority is good news not only for the local market, but also for the international investors. Indeed the Kingdom has had a reputation of a difficult market to enter, as the working culture can sometimes be difficult to grasp for newcomers.
That is why Informa Telecoms & Media is launching Saudi Com, a new event in the Com World Series designed to bring together operators, investors and vendors to look at the specific opportunities in the Saudi telecoms market. Already confirmed speakers include: Dr Ahmed Sindi (CEO, Atheeb/GO), Hamoud Al-Kussayer (VP Regulatory Affairs, STC), Jameel Al Molhem (VP Personal Services, STC), Gert Reider (Chief Executive Bahrain, Batelco), Alaa Malki (Director – Mobile Radio Network Planning and Design, Mobily), Rasheed Shaksheer (Director, Key Projects, Mobily), Mohammed Al Hashili (CEO, Mazoon Mobile), Ahmad Abu Zannad (Head of Consumer Segments, Zain KSA), Abdulrahman Obaied (Marketing Director, Awalnet). The event will take place in Bahrain, an easy-to-reach desitnation and popular leisure destination for Saudi nationals.

15 Jan 2010

Mobile Broadband to boost Latin America’s telecoms market

Last week Chile’s incumbent operator Entel announced its first successful LTE trial, leading the way toward mobile broadband in the region. Chile is undoubtedly Latin America’s test bed for new telecoms technologies, having been the first country in the region to launch mobile WiMAX, IPTV, EDGE, and the second to launch 3G (after Puerto Rico).
This LTE annoucement is an indicator that mobile broadband is the most exciting new service to be launched in Latin America. Indeed, after years of slower growth followed by a recession that hit the region strongly, operators are in need of new models to reinforce their positions. One way is of course to reduce costs – and as elsewhere operators are looking into cost-efficiency strategies. But they will also need to reduce to trend towards lower ARPUs by launching more revenue-generating data services. That’s where mobile broadband brings the best opportunities. The fixed market occupies a relatively small position in most Latin America’s markets compared to mobile, and mobile broadband is an ideal way of reaching new internet users.
It is therefore fitting that the upcoming Americas Com event (Rio, Brazil, 30 June – 1st July) will give prominent position on its programme to broadband strategies, with a full keynote session dedicated to it, as well as a special focus session on Chile as the most innovating market in the region. The conference programme is being written and there are speaking opportunities for operators and telecoms specialists to share their expertise on the market. Don't hesitate to get in touch for more information.