9 Mar 2015

African markets at MWC 2015: What were the debates about?

Maybe it was the glorious sun in Barcelona on the first two days of Mobile World Congress but it seemed that the mood this year was more positive than usually. The Com World Series team was there to meet and plan for the 2015 events, in particular AfricaCom.

A lot of noise was made around 5G and new gadgets, but there was also plenty of talk on emerging market issues: the GSMA held seminars on mobile for development, the Connected Women event looked at services for women in low and middle income countries, A4AI launched their Affordability Report with a governmental roundtable on broadband, the Innovation City showcased some exciting apps and technologies for emerging markets, and various networking events gathered African operators and industry stakeholders.
Here are some of the main ideas that we took out of it and that will be reflected at AfricaCom 2015:
  • Consolidation is needed in many African markets: too many countries still have 5-6 operators, some of them holding a licence without being able to invest in network deployment; in order to help consolidation, some are calling for support from regulators
  • LTE is getting bigger: most of Africa’s regulators are allocating frequencies or closing deals with operators to deploy; some countries are integrating it in their national broadband plans, but what type of coverage is needed and how to balance commercial imperatives with governments’ expectations?
  • Local start-ups must be supported to encourage innovation: mobile operators may not be best positioned to create new services but African entrepreneurs need help in order to succeed; this means better funding, more support from incubators and better links with their counterparts in the Silicon Valley
  • New revenue streams for operators: in the digital age, operators need to re-think their business models and to identify new revenue sources: will it be new mobile money services, enterprise services, content, big data?
  • Addressing underserved segments: rural populations and women remain untapped segments; beyond CSR objectives, there are commercial opportunities for targeted, relevant and affordable services
  • Virtualisation: incumbents and start-ups in Africa are building their networks and now is a good time to build SDN
These topics and more will be covered at AfricaCom in Cape Town on 17-19 November. Over three days, the event will include keynote sessions focusing on developing a vision for digital Africa, as well as focused streams, networking sessions, VIP activities and new features to address the major trends in the market.

If you are interested in sharing your views on the market, having an input in the topics covered or speaking at the event, please contact julie.rey@informa.com