17 Dec 2012

Check out the key trends in Africa's digital market, from debates at AfricaCom

As 2012 comes to a close it is fitting to reflect on the main trends in Africa's digital market. The year has certainly been busy thanks to ever-increasing competition between operators, a boom in data usage, the continued rise of media brands including social media and the thirst for more local content.
AfricaCom 2012, held in Cape Town in November, provided a great platform to check the state of the market.
Here's a recap of the main themes that were discussed at the event. Don't hesitate to add your thoughts!
If you have trouble seeing the picture find it on this link: http://files.informatandm.com/uploads/2012/12/africa_digital_market_infograph.pdf

6 Dec 2012

See you next year at Middle East Com | 23-24 September 2013

*** Share your thoughts on this year’s event #MECom @allaboutcom

The second day of Middle East Com opened with Nokia’s view of the smartphone market. Shiv Shivakumar, Head of India, Middle East and Africa at Nokia outlined key drivers for the growth of the smartphone and consumer tablet market as  education, entertainment and experience. Shiv was joined by Blackberry’s Managing Director for the Middle East - Sandeep Saihgal to answer questions about the direction of device manufacturer strategies, and future partnerships with telcos.

Day 2: Nokia's Keynote Session
The keynote content panel featured MBC, d1g.com, SOUQ.com and On Demand Group.  Panellists discussed their mobile specific strategies and the consumer desire for content on the move.  Panellists agreed that regulation remains a challenge, and that while content is being accessed on the move it is not being translated to mobile commerce at this stage.

Day 2: Content panel featured MBC, d1g.com, SOUQ.com and On Demand Group

A key highlight of yesterday was the LTE stream, with speakers addressing a packed conference room to update on the region’s LTE deployments.  The MVNOs Middle East conference continued yesterday, with a keynote presentation from Renna’s CEO Joakim Klingefjord and an extremely popular regulatory panel discussion following a presentation from the Saudi regulator.

Day 2: The LTE session 
Extended networking sessions, the introduction of speed networking and Dubai’s newest venue helped to make this another successful Middle East Com and we look forward to welcoming all to Middle East Com 2013 on 23rd-24th September next year.

Day 2: Speed Networking Session

What are your thoughts on this year's Middle East Com?

Tweet about your experience using #MECom @allaboutcom on twitter!

Take a look at more photos from the conference

See below:

- Driving innovation in Digital Ecosystem - presentation by #Etisalat VP of Commerce at #MECOM: http://twitter.yfrog.com/oc2w5nczj

- Coffee break at #MECOM: http://twitter.yfrog.com/hwl1znvj

- Members of #Huawei team at #MECOM: http://twitter.yfrog.com/hs263dbj

What our attendees said about this year's show:   

“Congratulations to all of you for a job well done!! This is by far the best Informa show I’ve attended.”
Rasky Espineli Rasco, CEO & Founder, GSG-OptoTech FZE

“Lovely event and I definitely encourage more telecom professionals to attend next year. Informa is awesome!”
Ayman Irshaid, CEO, Areeba Areeba

"This was a fantastic opportunity to meet both the telecom operators in the region and the OTT players and explore future opportunities and cooperation in area of digital telecommunication."Said Al-Shanfari, Department Head – Business Development, Nawras, Oman

“I would have to admit that when I first heard about Speed-networking, I was not too sure of what to expect. However, it has been for us a great success and found it extremely well organized and interesting. Meeting people for 2 minutes each time and even if you do not end up with a relevant operator, you shake hands and go to the next person. I have had the opportunity to meet many relevant people which was my reason of being here.”
Ramon Valero, Sales Account Executive, Open Wave Mobility (Sponsor)

“Middle East Com 2012 was really very informative and interactive. It gave me the opportunity to meet & know operators, delegates, vas vendors & consultants under the same platform. One of the most fruitful and organized conference I have attended. Full marks to the organizers!”
Muzammil Ali, VAS Delegate, Ericsson

“An exhibition/conference focused on the cutting edge of Telecom Technology. I think it is the ideal event to catch up with the largest solutions to network systems, the vast array of applications and choices available in the market place”
Stafford Batchelor, Managing Director, Batchelor Associates

“The overall attendance to this event has enhanced our experience through learning and listening to other telecom professionals experiences and exercises. It has been a pleasure to have attend this event.”
Atef Attili, Retail Sales Manager, Paltel

Thank you to all the Sponsors of Middle East Com 2012

Comviva * Comverse * Comza * Bics * Blackberry * Huawei * CSG International * Tellabs * Openwave Mobility * Analysys Mason * Wimax Forum * Effortel  

See You Next Year!

To get involved early for the 2013 show,
please visit our website:

Middle East Com 2013
23-24 September 2013
JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai,
United Arab Emirates 

4 Dec 2012

The 17th annual Middle East Com opened today in Dubai...

***Join us for Day 2!***    Share your thoughts on #MECom @allaboutcom 
The 17th annual Middle East Com opened today at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai.  

Delegates enjoyed an inspiring keynote speech, presented by Osman Sultan, CEO of du. Mr Sultan focussed on the expectations of the new digital generation, and the role of the telco in meeting those expectations. Du’s CEO acknowledged the need for partnership, between OTT players and telco’s, and between telco’s themselves. He emphasised the need for openness and scaleability to embrace in order to realise the potential for innovation and creativity in the digital world.

Delegates at the Keynote session

The theme of innovation was continued during a panel featuring Etisalat, du, Areeba Areeba and Pinger. The panel were questioned on whether operators had it in their DNA to innovate – or would it be preferable to leave that to the small entrepreneurial start-ups?  The operators emphasised the benefits they can bring to the OTT players – with a focus on their billing capabilities, authentication of users, and the vast information they have about their customers.

Ihab Hinnawi the CEO of @Ihinnawi #Umniah @Umniahbelong in a panel at #MECom

An interview with Google’s Mohamad Mourad continued the theme of innovation, with delegates being given an insight into the internet giant’s creative strategies.  Mr Mourad emphasised the need for bottom-up thinking, and the importance of attracting the most talented professionals to develop a truly innovative proposition.

Speed Networking at #MECOM well attended by VIP operators & vendors

With break-out streams focussing on Digital Services, Transforming Network Economics, Customer Experience Management and MVNOs, delegates were treated to a comprehensive insight into the opportunities available in the Middle East’s digital world.

Tomorrow’s keynote sessions feature Etisalat, Nokia, Samsung and Blackberry, together with leading content developers showcasing the progression and development in localised Arabic content.  The break-out sessions feature the 2nd day of MVNOs, alongside a focus on Mobile Money, Mobile Marketing and LTE.

We look forward to seeing you at the second day of Middle East Com.

Make sure to join us for Day 2
There is an outstanding speaker line-up for day 2 of the event as well -  
make sure to join us tomorrow!  
What are your thoughts on this year's Middle East Com?    

Tweet about your experience using #MECom @allaboutcom on twitter!

Sponsors of Middle East Com
Comviva * Comverse * Comza * Bics * Blackberry * Huawei * CSG International * Tellabs * Openwave Mobility * Analysys Mason * Wimax Forum * Effortel

3 Dec 2012

How can operators manage the risks of outsourcing?

Written by Ghassan El-Housseini, 
Regional Director for the Middle East, 
With budgets getting tighter and networks getting more complicated, more and more operators are choosing to outsource the management of their networks, letting vendors take on day to day management in return for sticking to clear KPIs and objectives. Operators no longer perceive the network as their key asset, instead focusing on their customer relationships, pricing and perceived service quality.

However this presents a challenge – network and subscriber data are some of the most valuable things an operator has, so by giving away this insight how much are they losing? More importantly, how do they maintain visibility into what subscribers are experiencing?

The answer is not a simple one and the solution lies in the strong governance of vendors. Four factors are crucial in achieving this: transparency, enhanced KPIs, automation and joint decision-making.

The only way an operator can hope to keep control of their outsourced network and retain visibility of network performance and customer experience is through seeing what is going on for themselves. Transparency is central to any successful partnership, providing both parties with the peace of mind that all involved are aware of what is happening across the network and key performance targets are being met. A network management and optimization platform that provides an independent shared view of the live network is essential.  With reducing customer churn being such a major focus area for operators it’s also critical that the quality of experience delivered to customers does not become secondary to managing the network. For this reason, in addition to the traditional network centric KPIs it’s vital that the outsource contract includes customer centric performance metrics which allow quality to be assessed at a granular level by location, customer segment and even handset.

However no matter how stringent the agreed performance metrics they will only be effective if they can be measured.  It’s important to recognise that due to the complexities of managing a multi-vendor, multi-technology network, stitching together data collated by a disparate set of tools can be arduous and costly.  As a result when the pressure is on, it may sometimes be sacrificed in favour of more urgent matters.  The only viable solution is a single fully integrated platform, where data collection and analysis is fully automated and reports and dashboards can be produced speedily and easily. 

Finally, with limited time and resource available it’s important to ensure that network optimization efforts are not wasted on activities which have little impact upon customer experience.  For example by correlating the operator’s customer data such as churn records and complaints etc. with real customer experience data taken directly from the network it’s possible to see which network issues are negatively impacting subscriber dissatisfaction and therefore which improvements should be prioritized.  Supported by a transparent network analytics and optimization platform with integrated and flexible customer experience analytics capability operators and vendors are able to work together to make better-informed decisions about the network and leverage the full advantages of their partnership. 

Ghassan will be speaking at Middle East Com on 4th December 2012 at 12:00, explaining how operators can retain control of outsourced networks and achieve transparent, systematic governance processes that ensure customer experience and network performance. 

Actix is also exhibiting on stand 4. For more information, please visit www.comworldseries.com/me and www.actix.com.

28 Nov 2012

Three top strategies for reducing LTE rollout risk

Written by Ghassan El-Housseini, 
Regional Director for the Middle East, 

LTE plans are quickly turning into reality.  Over 100 deployments have already got underway in 2012 as operators look to go live with LTE to beat the competition, improve data capacity and realise the cost per bit potential of LTE.

Here at Actix we’ve already been involved in rolling out LTE networks for some of the biggest operators in the US and Japan. Taking advantage of our direct experience and insight into some of the largest LTE rollouts to date, here are our three top strategies for minimizing LTE rollout risk.

1. Target LTE capacity

Target the right areas and understand your demand. LTE is all about data, so you need to know exactly where to deploy the right levels of capacity. Do you know where your iPad users are at lunchtimes? People paying extra for LTE will expect quick data speeds so you need to know where they will be and what they will want to do.

2.  Hold your vendors to account, don’t just rely on contracts

As with any rollout, LTE presents significant risks for operators.  However, although operators carry the risk it is the NEPs who are ultimately responsible for rollout quality and timing.

We’ve seen it time and time again, months are spent adding very specific KPIs into contracts with vendors, but the reality is the analysis needed is so time consuming and expensive it often doesn’t get done. KPIs themselves are essential, but they must be measurable, which means data collection and analysis have to be automated.

Who controls?
Operator Impact
LTE rollout is
not on time
Product launch delays
Regulatory compliance missed
Extension of rollout operation
LTE network is
not on quality
Lower service usage
Poor customer experience
Increased post acceptance optimization
Operator gets reputation for poor quality

3. Be prepared for the post LTE world

It’s easy to take your eye off the ball as the new network goes live, particularly for subscribers using 2G and 3G. Upgrading network infrastructure to a singleRAN (combined 2G and 3G base stations) and refarming spectrum will make it easier to rollout LTE, but it will disrupt network performance and customer experience.  Any changes need to be carefully planned and monitored. After upgrade make sure you have detailed insight into every customer’s experience to see exactly when and where problems occur - or risk losing those who see their network quality drop.

As LTE is rolled out operators need to get ready for the new reality of HetNet complexity.  Many processes and tools aren’t suited to this environment so now is the time to get your house in order.

Ghassan will be speaking at Middle East Com on 4th December 2012, discussing the importance of geo-intelligence in focusing the mobile operators’ network strategies and operations. For more information, please visit www.comworldseries.com/me and www.actix.com.

21 Nov 2012

Geo intelligence – the key to high quality customer experience

Reducing customer churn and assuring network quality cost-effectively are some of the major challenges facing mobile operators in the Middle East.  But what are the best ways to achieve this?

Written by Ghassan El-Housseini,
Regional Director for the Middle East,
I’m Ghassan El-Housseini, Regional Director Middle East at Actix.  At Middle East Com, I’ll highlight the critical role that geo intelligence can play in focusing network strategies and operations to keep your customers happy and get the most out of your network.

In my Masterclass on 4th December, I’ll explain why geo intelligence holds the key to delivering high quality customer experience, identifying and leveraging your areas of competitive advantage, making accurate and cost-effective decisions on network planning and rollouts and also focusing and managing vendor and outsourcing relationships.

Today, with such tremendous pressure on CAPEX and OPEX operators have to be judicious about where to target additional network coverage and capacity and where to rollout LTE. 

Customer experience issues must also be addressed quickly and, in a sector where the customer is king, operators need to move their focus away from managing the network in isolation to keeping the customer happy through high quality performance.

In such a competitive landscape, it’s also critical that operators leverage every ounce of network advantage they possess in order to attract and retain subscribers. 

Geo intelligence offers a powerful approach for mobile operators.

Join my masterclass on 4th December to learn how mobile operators can reduce churn by assuring high quality customer experience; confidently select the most appropriate technologies to boost network coverage and capacity; prioritize LTE rollouts for best ROI; and reduce risk through a transparent and systematic vendor governance process.

- Actix is the recognized global leader in mobile RAN analytics and optimization

- We help operators improve customer experience in the RAN, rollout LTE on time, and optimize multi-vendor 2G, 3G and 4G networks

- Actix has an unrivalled customer base of over 400 operators and equipment vendors

- We’ve been active in the Middle East for over 5 years and we have a close working relationship with regional operators such as Etisalat, Du, Zain and Orascom amongst others

Ghassan will be speaking at Middle East Com on 4th December 2012, discussing the importance of geo-intelligence in focusing the mobile operators’ network strategies and operations. For more information, please visit www.comworldseries.com/me and www.actix.com

20 Nov 2012

Reducing churn through Customer Experience Analytics

Written by Ghassan El-Housseini,
Regional Director for the Middle East,

As Middle Eastern mobile markets become ever more saturated, operators are starting to look away from customer acquisition and increasingly towards retention. There has therefore never been as crucial a time as today for mobile operators to better understand and manage the experience of existing customers.

Traditionally this was achieved by focusing on improving overall network KPIs, the thinking being that a better network would result in a better customer experience.  But in practice network data, however it is analysed, gives a poor indication as to the true customer experience.

Customer Experience Analytics (CEA) is a key part of the Actix geo-intelligence offering.   CEA doesn’t rely on network KPIs but instead leverages existing network equipment data feeds to capture call by measurement data direct from subscribers. 

This low level data can be geo-located to provide granular insight into people, places and handsets. It allows operators to finally answer common, relevant questions such as:

- Where does poor data performance result in VIP customer churn?
- What is the iPhone dropped call rate inside key corporate HQs?
- Where would be the most effective areas to target LTE and small cells?
- What is the signal strength for roamers using data cards at airports?

The benefits of collecting this data are numerous. Firstly, by identifying areas at risk, tracking where calls are dropped and assessing key corporate accounts, operators can plan service upgrades that are based on real customer demand. 

Secondly, mobile operators can establish what impact new handsets and features are having on their network, mapping performance to allow better prioritisation of resources.

Finally, from an engineering perspective, operators can target their efforts more accurately at churn zones and data hotspots, particularly as CEA enables the identification of indoor coverage and usage.

Without this understanding of exactly what customers are experiencing – delivered through CEA - it’s impossible for operators to truly improve the customer experience, attract new subscribers or keep hold of existing ones.

Ghassan will be speaking at Middle East Com on 4th December 2012, discussing the importance of geo-intelligence in focusing the mobile operators’ network strategies and operations. For more information, please visit www.comworldseries.com/me and www.actix.com.

15 Nov 2012

Africa has joined the party - in a big way

Written by Chuck Green, CEO of Helios Towers Africa

The story of Africa today tells us that sometimes it is better to be a late starter that to be a pioneer.  Pioneers, as they used to say in the era of cowboys and indians, get all the arrows. 

A generation ago people in the old world would still patronisingly refer to Africa as the “dark continent”.  Now, as the developed economies struggle, Africa is likely to have seven out of the top ten fastest growing economies over the next five years, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.  Africa’s “lion economies” are growing more strongly than Asia’s “tiger economies”.  Africa’s collective GDP is forecast to hit 2.6 trillion dollars by 2020.  Africa has stepped out of the darkness into the spotlight.

In one industry after another capitalism is alive and well in Africa.  Home grown African entrepreneurs are investing, trading and creating new jobs by the million.  The World Bank reckons that by 2015 100 million Africans will have an income of 3,000 dollars or more.  As a result, the spending power of the African consumer is growing while hard pressed European and American consumers continue grimly to deleverage their debts.

All across the world information and communications technology has been a driving force for transforming both the economic growth of nations and the lifestyle of individuals and families.  But, as with any relatively new innovation, some of the earliest versions quickly became clunky and outdated and sometimes caused legacy problems that impeded the development of the next generation of products.

By arriving at bit late at the party Africa has been free to go directly to the best products and the most efficient and user-friendly infrastructure.  Africa has become home to a disproportionate share of the estimated two billion people who have a mobile phone but no bank account.  Entrepreneurial investment right across the continent has facilitated the rapid integration of mobile technology and financial products. 

This is creating a nonstop stream of new opportunities to serve the consumer, the neighbourhood and the small business directly – frequently cutting costs by eliminating the bureaucratic middle man. 

Telecom tower sharing is a classic illustration.  Its arrival proved to be a landmark in Africa’s telecoms sector, acting as an enabler for the increased use of telephones in rural as well as urban areas.  Much of its attraction is that tower sharing brings benefits to operators and customers alike. Instead of having three or four base stations in a village, all running generators simultaneously, tower sharing allows for a single wireless network and for the management of power and site maintenance in a much cheaper and more environmentally friendly way.  Telecom operators can focus on serving their customers rather than looking after their infrastructure.  Customers gain a better service for less money. The carbon footprint is reduced.  Everybody wins.

This sort of communications development would benefit any part of the globe.  But for Africa, with its notoriously dreadful roads, the telco and towerco revolution is making a transformative impact. 

And not just in mobile banking.  For example, telephonic agro-information is making possible the emergence of “e-farming” – programmes which bridge the rural divide between the farmer and the remote expert via programmes that disseminate and share agronomic information and advice through mobile phones.

Trends like this mean that investment continues to accelerate, cross-border trade flourishes, businesses diversify and achieve economies of scale.  Millions are being propelled out of poverty and into the shops.  Africa is far from trouble free, but the evidence from more and more industries indicate that its greatest days lie ahead.

AfricaCom leading a new generation of tech writers

The two young Cape Town bloggers...

Two young Cape Town bloggers will have their dreams come true when they are awarded with a tablet each to capture the industry breaking news at AfricaCom 2012 taking place 13 – 15 November 2012 at the CTICC.

Awarded by Julie Rey, Research Director, Com World Series (AfricaCom 2012), the two young girls, Simone Johnson and Lauren Leonard will spend three days at the continent’s largest digital communications conference and exhibition, getting the low down on what’s happening in the digi-sphere and reporting on it, under the mentorship and guidance of Swift Consultting’s Liron Segev; Africa Telecoms magazine’s Bradley Shaw and Kaz Henderson, founding partner of Networx PR. 

Run in conjunction with SABC2’s youth programme Hectic Nine-9, Johnson and Leonard were selected as the two finalists due to their submissions, easily out classing their nearest rivals.  Johnson, who will be turning 22 years of age on 27 November, aside from receiving an early birthday present, has a project management qualification under her belt and is passionate about communications and aims to make a valuable contribution to the youth interested in following a career in the digi-sphere;

Leonard who is currently studying journalism in Cape Town, was shortlisted for her insight and take on the communications realm saying “Technology educated me. Technology goes beyond cellphones and iPods, it has transformed the human mind”.

While AfricaCom remains a senior business executive focused event, there is a lot happening that the bloggers can get to grips with that will be important to convey to youth considering working in this dynamic and impactful arena.  The Entrepreneurs Incubator Hub, the Apps Developer Workshop and even AfricaCast are three key areas that the girls can explore and feedback on.  The first order of business though, will be for the two young reporters to sit in on the Africa Industry Outlook session which kicks off the conference – their take-out on what’s happening on the continent and how it affects them and their peers, should make for some interesting reading.    

About AfricaCom 2012
AfricaCom is Africa’s largest communications conference & exhibition.  Now in its 15th year, this trailblazing event gathers together 7,000 senior decision-makers from the telecoms, media and ICT industries.  This year a record 200+ speakers will share their vision of Africa’s future communications landscape and the agenda has expanded to incorporate many more co-located events which will attract new audiences from the apps development, broadcast, digital music, entrepreneur, investment and business sectors.

For further information please contact:

Kaz Henderson – kaz@networxpr.co.za;  M: +27 82 339 1199
Elize Engle – elize@networxpr.co.za; M: +27 74 132 3255