22 Apr 2014

Jonah Fink, Senior Vice President of IDT Telecom Solutions talks on key trends and prospects in the African VAS market...

Jonah Fink
Senior Vice President
of IDT Telecom Solutions

Informa Telecoms and Media caught up with Jonah Fink, Senior Vice President of IDT Telecom Solutions, ahead of his presentation at VAS Africa 2014, to find out Jonah’s thoughts on key trends and prospects in the African VAS market...

Com World Series: What business do IDT have in Africa?

Jonah Fink: IDT supports a strong channel partner program in Africa that supports System Integrators, Internet Service Providers and internet-related VARs that sell IDT Hosted and branded Voice over IP Solutions under the IDT Beyond’s portfolio. Services include – call shop, broadband telephony, mobile app and SIP Trunking.

Com World Series: What are the three key challenges for the African Voice Market now?

1. Commerce  2. Awareness  3. Focus

Jonah Fink: As “Cash & Carry” is still the dominant behavior in African consumer commerce, finding key distribution partners with a strong footprint of point of sales is essential.

Awareness of alternate voice solutions is a key ingredient for both the consumer and business client. As Africa may be the leading continent of opportunity, there is so much to do and focus on. IDT is looking to establish partnership whose sole focus is voice and its delivery to their respective markets. Teamwork, Collaboration and Hands on Workshops or seminars can help drive the awareness and necessity of IDT Beyond’s Over the Top Solutions.

Com World Series: How do you see those challenges changing in the next three years?

Jonah Fink: I believe the single remedy to the above stated challenges is internet penetration. As Africa will continue its rapid and robust deployment of Internet around the continent all three of the above stated challenges will be appeased. Internet will start enabling POSA networks around the Horn of Africa to produce real time transactions no matter how the remote a location will be. Internet penetration will allow for real time webinars & “GotoMeetings” hosted by IDT Beyond to attract key decision makers to join and learn about alternative voice solutions for the home, business and enterprise. Thirdly, IDT is prepared, encouraged and motivated to share best practices with African operators to showcase case studies that have yielded mass success to our key partners around the globe. Gaining such awareness and knowledge will drive the Operator’s confidence in regaining the share of the market that belongs at home. 

Com World Series: What makes the African market different from the rest of the world?

Jonah Fink: Its diversity, topology, demographics and culture require IDT to study and learn each country as its own entity. Customization is a key ingredient to IDT’s voice offers. One size does NOT fit all. IDT works intimately with each and every partner on their requirements. IDT listens to the operator’s need for brand awareness, uniformity and seamless integration of IDT’s solutions into their respective portfolios. 

Com World Series: Are OTT operators’ a threat or an opportunity for African Telcos?

Jonah Fink: Cleary, OTT operators such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp are threats against African Telcos revenues. In particular, international long distance is on a decline for most operators in the region. In fact, there are many supportive studies and articles which say that VOIP originated international traffic has surpassed the traditional voice minute in key markets in Africa. At the same time, these applications have created a very strong awareness down to the consumer. As each day goes by, African consumers are embracing new methods of communication. There was an eye opening article published some months back which conducted a survey posing the question: If the local operator would launch its own OTT solution such as Skype in their market, would the consumer continue to purchase from Skype or would they buy directly from their local Operator…. And the overwhelming response to the article was the consumers would buy from their home based operator. Loyalty, nationalism, brand and a single bill rather than a swivel chair approach to another foreign OTT based provider is the appeal.

Com World Series: How can African operators make money from voice when so many calls are free now?

Jonah Fink: The world is all about mobility. Mobile penetration into Africa is going at lightning speeds. As Africa, becomes mobile and customers are taking their lives on the go, off-net traffic is growing. It’s funny, when one thinks about Skype or Viber services, they immediately think about P2P (Peer to Peer free services). It is worthy to note that IDT’s flagship mobile calling solution in the United States just enjoyed its strongest month of March producing tens of millions of dollars in international voice revenue. There is certainly Skype and Viber in the USA… So why is IDT’s retail voice business growing? Isn’t everyone talking for free? Absolutely not! We forget too easily, that particularly in the developing markets, where international voice corridors are so important, consumers are either getting their first mobile phone for the very first time, enjoying new cellular networks which are reaching remote communities for the first time and yes the smartphone is making customers smart. All of these ingredients mean more billable minutes which can go in either of two ways – yours or theirs…

Hear more from Jonah at 14.20 on 24th June, in his presentation at VAS Africa! Download the full agenda here!

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