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24 Apr 2014

Note D’Hours Telecom & Utilities Dans Le Cadre De La Preparation De Connecting West Africa 2014


NOTE D’HORUS TELECOM & UTILITIES DANS LE CADRE DE LA PREPARATION DE CONNECTING WEST AFRICA

      Quelle doit être la priorité principale pour améliorer l’accès aux communications en Afrique de l’Ouest?

Les 20 dernières années ont été marquées par l’explosion de la téléphonie mobile en Afrique de l’Ouest, qui a permis à une majorité de la population d’accéder aux services de télécommunications qui lui était jusqu’alors fermés, puisqu’ils étaient de facto réservés à l’administration, aux entreprises, à une faible partie de leurs salariés (cadres) et aux quelques ménages (moins de 5%) titulaires d’une ligne fixe.
Cette « démocratisation » des services de voix a eu un impact considérable sur les modes de vie et sans aucun doute sur le développement économique, et le développement de nouveaux services comme le M-Paiement devrait continuer à répondre à des besoins véritablement essentiels et à améliorer les conditions de vie de chacun.              

Trois priorités se dégagent pour les années à venir :
  •           La baisse des coûts des services de voix mobile entre les réseaux
  •           Le développement de l’accès aux services de données, notamment auprès des très petites entreprises
  •           La couverture des zones rurales en services de voix et de données


Baisse des coûts des services de voix mobiles entre les réseaux (« Off – Net »)

Le niveau élevé des coûts d’interconnexion constitue avant tout un moyen pour les opérateurs dominants de freiner l’émergence de nouveaux acteurs.
Les tarifs des communications Off – Net sont parfois le double des tarifs On – Net, voire supérieurs aux tarifs des communications internationales.
Ce niveau élevé de l’interconnexion procure à court terme des revenus importants aux opérateurs en place mais ses effets pervers, notamment pour les consommateurs, sont considérables :
  •   Frein à la concurrence (effet club)
  •   Phénomène des « multi – SIM » : selon les pays et le nombre d’opérateurs, les consommateurs finaux sont incités à s’équiper de 2 à 4 cartes SIM d’opérateurs différents. Le taux réel de pénétration (fondé sur le nombre réel d’utilisateurs) peut être deux fois moins élevé que le taux officiel, fondé sur le nombre de cartes SIM actives
  •           Coût finalement élevé pour les consommateurs qui consacrent jusqu’à 15% de leur revenu à la téléphonie mobile (contre 2 à 5% dans les pays de l’OCDE)
  • ARPU très faible et tendanciellement décroissant pour chacun des opérateurs

En règle générale, les pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest francophones ont du retard dans ce domaine par rapport aux pays d’Afrique de l’Est et/ou anglophones, dans lesquels (Ghana, Kenya..) les régulateurs ont imposé depuis quelques années des baisses autoritaires des tarifs d’interconnexion.



Développement de l’accès large bande aux services de données et à Internet

L’accès data et internet large bande reste très limité, du fait principalement de la très faible pénétration de la téléphonie fixe (0,1 à 1,5% de la population) et partant de l’ADSL.
Le développement relativement rapide de la 3G et bientôt des réseaux LTE permettra d’amélioration l’accès mais ne répondra pas à l’ensemble des besoins, notamment professionnels :

-          l’accès data et Internet large bande (> 1 Mbps) est pour l’instant réservé aux grandes et moyennes entreprises, via le réseau fixe ou le satellite (VSAT)
-          l’Internet mobile adresse essentiellement une clientèle jeune et résidentielle : les sites les plus visités sont Facebook, Google, Yahoo et YouTube

Il n’existe donc pas ou peu d’offres adaptées aux besoins et capacités du segment majeur des millions de très petites entreprises qui assurent l’essentiel de l’activité économique et de l’emploi en Afrique.

La couverture des zones rurales

La couverture des zones rurales en services de voix et a fortiori de données a toujours été différée par les opérateurs en raison des problèmes techniques (énergie) et financiers qu’elle soulève.

Sous la pression des Autorités Publiques (gouvernements et régulateurs) mais également du fait d’une certaine saturation des marchés urbains, la situation évolue (lentement) grâce à l’émergence de solutions innovantes dans les domaines de l’énergie (solaire) et du transport (satellite).

La couverture rurale dans des conditions rentables requiert de réaliser des analyses géomarketing assez approfondies permettant d’adapter finement les équipements radios (TRX) aux besoins réels. Elle devrait d’autre part être facilitée par le développement assez rapide du partage de sites et l’apparition de Tower compagnies.

 Quel degré d’amélioration des réseaux est nécessaire pour offrir un accès fiable aux services de data?
Les principaux problèmes sont :

-          En ville, la qualité des réseaux fixes filaires (et leur éligibilité à l’ADSL) dont la réhabilitation est très couteuse
-          A l’échelle des pays, l’absence ou la saturation des réseaux de transports (backbones) qui ne peuvent répondre aux besoins exponentiels en capacités induits par le déploiement des réseaux 3G.

 Comment les réseaux LTE se développent-ils dans la région? Qui sont les leaders et qu’est-ce qui fait de leur stratégie un succès?

Le développement des réseaux LTE est pour l’instant plus lent en Afrique de l’Ouest qu’en Afrique de l’Est où existent quelques acteurs majeurs comme Smile. Le Groupe Suisse YouMee Africa, déjà présent au Cameroun, vient d’annoncer le lancement de ses activités en Côte d’Ivoire.

Quels sont les derniers  développements dans les services fixes/wireless?
Comment les opérateurs peuvent-ils contrôler les coûts pour maximiser leur profitabilité?

-          Par la mise en commun des infrastructures de transport (backbones) et des infrastructures passives des sites radios
-          Par la limitation progressive des capacités d’accès radios (3G/4G) en fonction de la consommation mensuelle des clients (formules de « faux illimité »)

Quels développements de satellites vont avoir le plus d’impact sur le secteur des communications dans la région?

L’apparition des offres satellitaires en bande Ku et surtout Ka permet une réduction drastique des coûts de bande passante, d’une part pour l’activité de backhauling, et d’autre part pour le développement d’offres de services managés d’accès large bande individuels.

Ces offres devraient notamment permettre d’adresser le segment des TPE dans les petites localités et les zones rurales où le déploiement d’infrastructures de transport terrestre est trop couteux.

Quel est l’impact des technologies de fibre sur le marché de la région?

Cet impact porte essentiellement sur le déploiement de réseaux de transport (backbones) nationaux et internationaux, terrestres et sous-marins, qui ont décuplé les capacités de connectivité large bande au moins le long des côtes de toute l’Afrique et qui devraient en faire baisser le prix si les conditions de concurrence et d’accès libre s’améliorent.

En termes d’accès, cet impact, pour des raisons de coût d’investissement, restera limité à court et moyen termes aux (très) grandes villes pour le raccordement des administrations, des grandes entreprises et éventuellement de grands ensembles immobiliers professionnels et résidentiels.

Comment les régulateurs et gouvernements soutiennent-ils l’investissement dans les réseaux de la région?

Les gouvernements soutiennent essentiellement les investissements dans les backbones nationaux, par la recherche de financements internationaux et la mise en place de PPP (Partenariat Publics Privés) mais ces processus sont très lourds/lents à mettre en œuvre et n’emportent pas nécessairement l’adhésion des opérateurs privés dans un contexte très concurrentiel.

D’un autre côté, gouvernements et régulateurs ont (trop) tendance à considérer le secteur des télécommunications comme une source intarissable de revenus à travers la mise en place régulières de nouvelles taxes, de plus en plus souvent assises sur le chiffre d’affaires et donc très pénalisantes pour les opérateurs.

Quelles sont vos attentes pour le salon Connecter l’Afrique de l’Ouest cette année?


Rencontrer des opérateurs et régulateurs et les sensibiliser à l’intérêt et l’apport de l’analyse géomarketing pour améliorer l’efficacité et la rentabilité des réseaux, notamment en zones rurales.



Dominique Baron est Président d’Horus Telecoms & Utilities, une société de conseil au service des opérateurs de télécommunications et investisseurs dans le domaine du marketing, de la distribution, gestion, organisation et financement. Il donnera une présentation sur comment répondre à la demande de services en milieu rural dans des conditions économiques difficiles dans la conférence Connecter l'Afrique de l'Ouest à Dakar en Juin.

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!

10 Apr 2014

Toyin Oloniteru, Director General - ICT, Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria: "Policy modification, enhancement and refinement is required on the basis of above to bring about network improvement in the sub-region"

Toyin Oloniteru
Director General - ICT, Government of Ekiti State,
 Nigeria

The Com World Series team caught up with Toyin Oloniteru, Director General - ICT, Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria to discuss burning issues on Data Service, Investments and LTE Networks ahead of West Africa Com taking place on the -10th - 11th of June in Dakar, Senegal. 


Com World Series: What in your opinion is the main priority in improving access to communication in West Africa?

Toyin Oloniteru: Preparation, adoption and implementation of national Broadband Internet Access policy (BIAP) across the sub-region with local support from and implementation by States and Local Governments within such national federation depending on how the country is organized politically. In Nigeria for example, there is a national broadband plan and our state – Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria is implementing an Ekiti Digital Transformation Programme (EDTP), a segment of it which comprises of Fibre Optic Roll out within the State capital, Ado-Ekiti. The medium to long term objective is to have broadband infrastructure in all the local government Headquarters in Ekiti State and then to the local communities. I believe this model and framework can be replicated across the West Africa sub-region with experience being shared based on case studies in states and countries that have implemented it.
It will also be great to have established and in operation West Africa Internet Exchange Point (WAIXP) so that Internet traffic within the sub-region can be localized. It will make service cost cheaper and bring about economic integration within the region.


How much network improvement is needed to deliver reliable access to data services?


Toyin Oloniteru: Network improvement in the sub-region can be addressed from a policy and a regulatory point of view. There is need for governments in the sub-region to consider licensing of and use of data centric technologies in their respective countries. In Nigeria for example, adoption of and deliberate promotion of GSM technology at the expense of CDMA technology created the problem of reliable data access and services in the country today. When GSM technology was adopted in the country and companies licensed to provide services using the technology, through regulation and policy – GSM Services provider/Operatorss were giving moratorium of 5 years and with opportunity to roll out nationally while CDMA services providers were restricted to regions within the country and in certain cities. 
Now, CDMA is a better technology at carrying data traffic as compared to GSM that is traditionally designed to carry voice traffic. The implication is that when the time comes now for reliable access to data services to be carried out the limit from the GSM networks become obvious – for example, connectivity for Point of Sale (POS) terminals, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Internet Access on mobile devices to mention a few. 

There is therefore need for policy rebalancing of technology adoption with respect to telecommunication service provisioning in countries within the sub-region. It is true that GSM technology for example has brought about substantive improvement in telecommunications development in Nigeria and within the West Africa subregion, but it could be better if the mix were a combination of GSM, CDMA and Fibre Optic Rollout especially in the hinterlands. 


In my opinion, policy modification, enhancement and refinement is required on the basis of above to bring about network improvement in the sub-region.



How can regulators and governments support investment in improved networks in West Africa?


Toyin Oloniteru: Governments in particular have greater role to play in this regard. They need to create conducive environment for investment in improved networks. (1) they need to ensure that power/energy infrastructure in their respective countries are well developed. Today, all Telcos (Telecommunication Companies) spend substantial amount of their fund in improvising for power to support their network. This fund could be used in expanding their network and in ensuring improved quality of service (QoS) to consumers. (2) Right of Way (RoW) charges to Telcos should be lowered and duplication of ROW charges by different tiers of governments – States and Local Governments eliminated. The Regulator can help in ensuring harmonization of RoW charges in this regard – for fair rates to the Telcos.  (3) by giving waivers and special considerations to Telcos in the area of tax payment and import duties through investment friendly fiscal  regime and policies with respect to telecommunication businesses in the sub-region.

The governments and regulators in the sub-region can work together to establish special purpose West Africa telecommunications development Fund that Telcos and SMEs with bias for network expansion can tap into. Such fund will require contribution from Telcos and potential investors in the sector.



How are LTE networks developing in the region? Who are the leaders and what makes their strategies successful?


Toyin Oloniteru: For LTE networks, its development in the West Africa subregion can be said to still be at infancy or just at framework development levels. The leaders are generally the leading Telcos that are already well established. Actual rollout is still scanty at least in the Nigerian environment, which is the largest Telecommunications market in the West Africa sub-region.



What are the latest developments in fixed/wireless services?


Toyin Oloniteru: From my point of view, the fixed/wireless services sub-sector of the telecommunication industry has been unduly short changed with regulatory bias for the GSM industry sector. There is therefore nothing much in terms of latest development as far as I am concern. The industry regulator at least in Nigeria has been unfair to this sub-sector. In the earlier part of telecommunications development in Nigeria it was cheaper and more affordable to use fixed/wireless services but somehow, the regulator deliberately through policy raise the interconnection rates for the fixed/wireless services subsector in other to promote the GSM services. The effect was that charges on calls and services on the fixed/wireless services side became higher, which resulted into loss of subscribers to the providers and hence inability to expand their network regionally and nationally within the country. Again, there is need for prevention of regulatory dictatorship and unfairness to that sub-sector really – at least in Nigeria.


How can operators control costs in order to maximise profitability?


Toyin Oloniteru: One way through which operators can control costs in order to maximize profitability is through “Infrastructure Sharing” and divestment from operations and businesses that are not their core. So Infrastructure Sharing and Business Outsourcing are important to achieving that desire. Others include but not limited to Service pricing innovations and employment of cost effective local human resources (train them to world class level) to man their operation in rural areas where they have operations and render services.


What satellite developments will most affect the communications market in the region?


Toyin Oloniteru: Let us see how the NIGCOM-SAT, in Nigeria develops in this regard. It will give us a hint at the prospect of satellite development in the sub-region.



What is the impact of fibre technology on the region’s market?


Toyin Oloniteru: Fibre optic technology is having great impact in the West Africa sub-region’s market. There are a number of submarine cables that have landed in the region now – MainOne Cable, Glo-1, SAT-3 etc that have landed in Nigeria. Others have landed in other part of West Africa coast too. There are now plans and ongoing implementation to expand the fibre optic rollout to the hinterlands. For example, in Nigeria, we have fibre optic link from Lagos to Ado-Ekiti (by Multilink) and now rollout within the State capital into homes (GRA), government offices (secretariat and campuses) and business locations. At least from this perspective, the technology is impacting the market. There are similar rollouts within greater metropolitan Lagos, the cities of Port Harcourt and Abuja and many other cities will join as the national broadband plan are being implemented and the newly licensed regional Infracos (Infrastructure Companies) by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) begin operation. There is clearly information that similar activities are taking place in other countries of the sub-region. So it is good news.

The real impact is reduction in prices of Internet access/services – to government, businesses and consumers alike. There is also now great increase in the number of mobile internet access subscribers through especially the GSM service providers and other Telcos – reaching previously underserved and un-served areas and groups.



What are your expectations from this year’s Connecting West Africa event?


Toyin Oloniteru: My expectation is that there will be great opportunity for networking, sharing of experiences among countries within the sub-region and from other sub-regions of Africa and the rest of the world. More importantly, event of this nature bring about sub-regional and regional integration of the economies of the participating countries – at governmental and business levels. It also helps to bring about interactions among the people of the sub-region and possibly will aid the need to seek to learn and understand the language of the francophone countries (by the English speaking ones and vice versa). Hopefully, events of this type will help to bring about a common market between the Francophone and Anglophones countries of the West Africa sub-region.

Find out more at Connecting West Africa -Toyin Oloniteru will be speaking on Day 2 at 10:30 on "The role of Governments and Regulators". Register here.


9 Apr 2014

Shameless self-promotion...


Not our usual content today, but a bit of light relief.  We hope you'll enjoy viewing it as a respite from your day and give you a flavour of our world-beating telecoms, media & ICT events in action... Show-casing our unique offering of peerless networking, incisive and interactive agendas and our dazzling event experiences ...


Informa Telecoms & Media - why choose us ... from Louisa Rogers on Vimeo.

26 Mar 2014

The annual EurasiaCom event closed today on a high note with lively debates, great discussions and insightful opportunities

The annual EurasiaCom event closed today in Istanbul after two days of lively debates on the future of the telecoms and digital sector in the region.


After a first day focused on operator strategies, LTE and the Internet of Things, the second day looked at cost-efficiency, how to monetise content & apps services and mobile money opportunities. The discussions gave a very insightful overview of the major opportunities and challenges faced by operators in the region: growing profitability while investing in more powerful networks and facing renewed competition from OTT providers.

The event was hosted by operator Turkcell and sponsored by Mahindra Comviva. The speaker line-up gave a broad representation of the region's most dynamic companies, from large operators in developed markets to smaller players in emerging ones. Companies represented on the programme included operators Turk Telekom, MTS, Bakcell, Azqtel, TTNET, Azerfon, Mobitel, Deutsche Telekom, Mynet, Play Mobile, as well as regulators and vendors.

"EurasiaCom provides a great opportunity for very different operators and service providers to network, to share experiences,  and ultimately deliver better services to the end-users" says Julie Rey, Research Director at organisers Informa Telecoms & Media.

EurasiaCom is part of the Com World Series, delivering high-level strategic events to key emerging markets. The next event, East Africa Com will take place in Kenya in May. 


Have a look at what a few people had to say about EurasiaCom 2014:

“Professionally organized, effective usage of time, highly international audience, efficient networking possibilities. The sessions were very informative, with a great range of speakers."
Murad Onol
Protel and TUYAD

Great speed networking sessions at EurasiaCom! Perfect way to meet and discuss our products with Turkish and CIS Mobile Operators. Thanks Aleksandra!
Erik Van Thielen
VP Business Development

Fantastic way to network with operators in short timeslots. Would love to engage in it AGAIN!
M. Dimitrova
Anritsu

The great speed networking event enabled me to meet many operators I would normally have a hard time hunting down in an event
Lars Isaksson
Sales Director
Netadmin Systems

Definitely an effective event to network in the region. We especially liked the “speed networking”; it helps to get to know regional players quite efficiently! Thank you!
Ramin Ramezani
MoveEuropa Service

Thank you so much for EurasiaCom. It was very interesting and well organized event. We will definitely come back again!
SkyTel Mongolia

Visit the website to find out what else happened at EurasiaCom 2014.

25 Mar 2014

Lively debate characterised 1st day of operator talking-shop EurasiaCom

The annual EurasiaCom conference opened today in Istanbul with great debates on operator strategies in a data-led market. Over 200 people from across the region’s leading telecoms companies gathered to hear inspiring presentations and join discussions with colleagues from across the market.


Murat Erkan, CEO of SuperOnline, opened the conference on behalf of host operator Turkcell. He said: "EurasiaCom 2014 is the only event of its kind covering the dynamic markets of Russia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the CIS and Turkey. The topics this year are highly attractive [including] the latest subjects which not only the region but also for the world works on, explores and tries to provide solutions for. EurasiaCom 2014 proves that each player in the region is a global player indeed."

The morning’s presentations and a panel discussion covered the topics of data-led networks and services.  Turk Telekom’s Fetullah Aykut Erdinc, Bakcell’s Marc Zirka, MTS’s Sergey Nichiporuk and Informa Telecoms & Media’s Alla Shabernikova shared their views on the challenges for operators to take advantage of the new data world: balancing between investment and profitability, LTE networks and services, threat and opportunities from OTT players, data pricing, and new revenue streams. The discussion around OTT players was particularly lively; it created a thought-provoking debate on how operators should react to the loss of revenue from OTT competition. In the afternoon, conference sessions covered  Wi-Fi, mobile number portability, digital marketing, cloud and M2M.

Eurasiacom is also a great opportunity for networking. The coffee breaks and lunch gave a chance to continue the debates in a more informal setting and to check the stands of the event’s sponsors and partners: Mahindra Comviva, Jinny Software, ND Satcom, TUYAD. The event also included a Speed Networking session where VIP guests from operators met some of the event’s key partners and a networking drinks reception will wrap-up the day.

EurasiaCom is always a great event to discuss major trends in the market” says Julie Rey, Research Director at organisers Informa Telecoms & Media; “This year more than ever, operators are re-thinking their strategies; this creates very interesting debates in the conference and outside. We are proud to provide a platform for the region’s players to examine these key issues”.
The second day of EurasiaCom will continue addressing key strategic topics for the region: cost-efficiency and profitability, content services, mobile money and apps. Visit eurasia.comworldseries.com to find out more information.

19 Mar 2014

Mahindra Comviva's perspective on the drivers for mobile financial services and the future of the industry ...


Vidya Chandy
VP MFS - Product Management
Mahindra Comviva


In advance of the 10th Annual Eurasia Com event taking place next week Com World Series benefits from the experience and wisdom of one of the speakers at the event - Vidya Chandy - of Mahindra Comviva - who offers her opinion here on the evolution of this complex and dynamic market...

Q1. How is your company positioned in the regional market and how do you expect it to evolve over the next couple of years?

Mahindra Comviva’s Mobile Financial Services (MFS) business unit  is a recognized leader with unrivalled experience in the mobile financial technology space, enabling service providers including Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and financial institutions, globally, to meet the needs of customers in both developed and emerging markets.  Its comprehensive suite of products includes digital wallets, mobile money for the unbanked/under-banked, mobile banking, mPOS, international remittance hub and electronic prepaid recharge solutions. It is among the top 3 mobile financial technology providers, with over 120 deployments of mobiquity® money (mobile money for the unbanked/under-banked) and PreTUPS™ (electronic prepaid recharge ), processing over 20 billion USD in payment flows, handling millions of transactions every day and serving 700+ million consumers globally.

We have currently partnered with telecom operators and banks in some countries in the region including Romania, Kyrgystan and Moldova. Our products power mobile financial services in about 26 African countries and we are targeting to establish market leadership in this region as well. We see tremendous potential and diverse demand for mobile financial services in the region (though that tends to vary between countries), and we expect to grow our presence considerably in the next few years in response to high interest in this domain from service providers.

Q2. What is driving adoption and growth of mobile financial services and what are the remaining challenges?

Adoption and growth drivers depend on the type of mobile financial service being offered. An essential pre-requisite is for each market to be assessed individually to understand its potential and environment - and the service must then be tailored to address that. A service which has been successful in one market may struggle to realize adoption and growth in others unless there is a conducive environment and compelling consumer need in those markets as well. Areas to be evaluated include regulations, social-economic-political factors, partnership possibilities, telecom network capabilities & mobile penetration, banking penetration & accessibility, payment infrastructure and maturity, cash circulation & the shadow economy, and addressable size of the target consumer segment(s). 

Mobile money services (for the unbanked and under-banked) which are typically offered by telecom operators require a) significant marketing investment to build trust and awareness amongst consumers, and to address financial and technological literacy b) an engaged and efficient agent network scaling to the last mile. In a nascent market, the service provider must first focus on the core unmet need of consumers before expanding the service: while Kenyans required an affordable, accessible and safe domestic remittance service, the Zimbabwe market required a solution to manage demand for cash balances due to dollarization. Mature markets are seeing success with innovative pricing, expanding the service to more avenues for making and receiving payments, aggressive merchant acquisition and agent incentives, and with opening up the system to partners, especially banks, who can offer savings and deposit products.  Challenges remain with lack of inter-operability and creating universal rather than market-specific services.

Mobile or digital wallets for the banked and card-owning segment have generated huge interest levels amongst banks, card schemes, retailers, telecom operators and OTT players amongst others. But the sweet spot for widespread consumer adoption is still elusive barring a few success stories such as Starbucks, Smart Wallet and Moca in South Korea. Studies demonstrate that consumers are willing to migrate towards use of the mobile for payments and commerce transactions. Digital wallets are well placed in breaking down the barriers to card usage online as they address concerns of security and ease of checkout, and solve the problem of shopping cart abandonment.

Wallet providers need to keep the consumer in mind and solve for them rather than the technology. A friction-less and intuitive experience covering the path to purchase is crucial for adoption – microseconds will begin to matter. Merchants need to be engaged with a multi-channel experience, ease of integration, and efficient delivery and redemption of coupons. Digital wallets involve a complex ecosystem and many stakeholders need to work together to agree on data sharing, customer ownership, ROI on technology enablement, POS infrastructure build-out and investments, and a business model that works for everyone. Currently, there are challenges on all these fronts.

Mobile banking is well established as an alternative and low-cost channel for connecting with customers and financial institutions need to differentiate on experience and accessibility to deepen their brand and customer engagement through this channel.

Q3. How do the various stakeholders work together at the moment and how will this need to change in order for mobile money to become mainstream in the region?

Customer retention and churn abatement are key concerns for telecom operators, hence there is very little incentive for them to collaborate over services that are offered to the unbanked and under-banked. They are partnering instead with financial institutions to offer more sophisticated financial products to help move consumers up the economic value chain. Eventually, transaction volume growth will require interoperability in markets where there is no single operator with a majority share, and this will benefit the domain similar to the way SMS interoperability resulted in increased transactions and operator revenue. Some regulators in other regions have already mandated or plan to mandate interoperability. Converting the opportunity of international remittance into the region will also help make this offering mainstream.

In the context of digital wallets, an example from Asia is worth mentioning: Japan, Korea, China, are innovating, collaborating and building scale. All successful deployments for digital wallets specially those utilizing NFC have built out extensive partnerships between telecom operators, banks, merchants, card networks and are driving awareness and economies of scale, with clear roles and responsibilities between all. KT, China Mobile and Docomo are co-operating strongly towards a joint NFC vision.

In this region, Russia provides a great example of collaboration, where multiple MNO’s have come together to offer a transport payment solution in Kazan, refining the early learnings from NFC launches by individual operators. The region needs more such collaboration to help with customer education, merchant enablement, clear business models for all, and support for more value added services.

Q4. What is still needed in terms of infrastructure, technology and interoperability to further drive MFS adoption across Eurasia?

This needs to be looked at individually for each market as there is wide variability in MFS potential and maturity within the region. Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia demonstrate the most maturity or potential, with Kyrgyz Republic, Romania and Georgia following them.

The issues are intricate when it comes to digital wallets, though with projected rise in mobile data consumption and smart-phone sales, the conditions are ripe for adoption. Markets like Turkey, which have seen several services being launched, could tend to fragment mind-share and consumer and merchant loyalty. Partnerships are needed in order to simplify and move towards interoperability, standardization, and ubiquitous acceptance. Simplification just got a boost through MasterCard and Visa’s support for HCE, as that will solve the complexities inherent today in secure card data storage for NFC-facilitated payments, but handset support and POS upgrades will still take time to get to tipping point.

Q5. Are there any predictions on the mobile money market you’d like to share with the community?

It is difficult to predict the future accurately in the digital wallet space as it is evolving fast, but I expect that a few players will survive and dominate, there will be significant consolidation, dis-intermediation from non-traditional players, the business model will shift to marketing, data and analytics, technology will continue to evolve at a blazing speed challenging the ecosystem, there will be progress on standardization, open platforms to empower developers, and mass-market adoption will be driven by rising network speeds, wide-spread availability and simplification of consumer experiences.

From the perspective of mobile money (for the unbanked and under-banked), I expect shared agent networks and remittance interoperability (domestic and international) to become a reality in mature markets and also in those where there is no dominant market leader; the agent-assisted model serving to bring a wider population into the self-service fold; opening up of platforms to the developer community through API leading to entrepreneurial ICT innovation that will expand mobile money acceptance to high-potential verticals that are currently un-tapped; continued consolidation and standardization.

Q6. What do you hope to get out of participating in EurasiaCom?

I hope to be able to exchange ideas, learnings and experiences with others, be informed about the current dynamics in the region, and understand how service offerings are faring, what are the major concerns and technology-enablement needs for operators and banks, and where can we provide our expertise and assistance.

Eurasia Com takes place next week in Istanbul, Turkey visit here for further information.

19 Feb 2014

Eugene Nyagahene, CEO, Tele10: “Mobile telcos are losing revenue to apps like Skype, Viber and WhatsApp”

Eugene Nyagahene 127
Eugene Nyagahene,
CEO,
Tele10

The Com World Series team caught up with Eugene Nyagahene, CEO of Tele10 to discuss burning issues on Profitability, Data and LTE Networks ahead of East Africa Com taking place on the 20-21st of May in Nairobi, Kenya. 


Com World Series: How is your company positioned in the regional market and how do you expect it to evolve over the next couple of years?

Eugene Nyagahene: Satellite broadcasting has been dominating the TV and pay-tv industry for the last 20 years. With digital migration around the corner, the game is about to change: DVB-T2 platforms are mushrooming, 4G/LTE networks and fiber being installed everywhere on the continent. Time has come for game-changers to tap into these new opportunities. Our company will be focused on investing in OTT but more than the network itself, our main investments will be directed to local content production oriented towards mobile viewers requiring a special format for people on the move.

Com World Series: What is most affecting profitability for operators in the region and how are you working to improve it?

Eugene Nyagahene: ARPU for all operators is declining. Facing tough competition from DTT platforms, satellite operators are reducing prices. Mobile telcos are also loosing revenue to apps like Skype, Viber, Whats App etc... Of course premium content such as live sports and movies will still drive sales for satellite operators. But for DTT and OTT, It's clear that the way forward is to bundle internet offer with local content video. Our company is working on it.

Com World Series: How is the demand for data impacting your business and how are you taking advantage of it?

Eugene Nyagahene: So far, the demand for data was for emails, social media and YouTube. The appetite for video content on the move is eroding the fixed screen viewership, especially for the teenagers. Our strategy is to give them more local video content in a structured way that appears as a new TV channel, with possibility to interact.

Com World Series: What is still needed in terms of networks and infrastructure across the region?

Eugene Nyagahene: 3G networks cannot handle the video content needs. More investments in LTE/4G networks and cable are needed. New players such as Korea Telecom are already investing in 4G networks in EAC. This will probably call a positive reaction from the dominant players such as MTN, Airtel etc...

Com World Series: How is LTE changing the market and what is your company’s strategy in regards to this technology?

Eugene Nyagahene: It's just the beginning for LTE networks. Most 3G networks will have to upgrade or disappear. At least in big cities. Our strategy is clear: content will be the king. And we will keep investing in it to improve the quality and the quantity.

Com World Series: What do you hope to get out of participating in East Africa Com?

Eugene Nyagahene: Sharing experience with all the big players in EAC was made possible by East Africa Com. With one stone, we hit many birds. Thanks to East Africa com.


295x140-EastAfricaCom_2014Find out more at East Africa Com - Eugene Nyagahenea will be speaking on Day 2 at 12:10 on “Partnerships in deploying innovative, cost-effective VAS". Register Here

13 Feb 2014

Chidi Okpala, Director of Airtel Money Africa: "Airtel investing to meet the needs of retailers and consumers"

120x120-Chidi Okpala
Chidi Okpala
Director
Airtel Money Africa

The Com World Series team caught up with Chidi Okpala, Director of Airtel Money Africa to discuss burning issues on mobile financial services and mobile money ahead of East Africa Com taking place on the 20-21 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Com World Series: How is your company positioned in the regional market and how do you expect it to evolve over the next couple of years?

Chidi Okpala: In East Africa, Airtel Money is available in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Across all four markets, the business is on a fast growth trajectory, with broadening embrace by consumers and corporates. We are now visibly at the forefront of efforts to create entire cashless payments ecosystems, deepen financial inclusion and reduce transaction costs across East Africa. We are leaders in the provision of integrated payments services for East African governments (all tiers), businesses, NGOs, embassies, religious institutions, schools and other types of institutions in the region. We are uniquely positioned as the only mobile money service across all four markets and over the next couple of years; we plan to leverage this unique positioning to further support the East Africa Community (EAC) economic and cooperation agenda.

Com World Series:  What is driving adoption and growth of mobile financial services and how do you expect the mobile money market to evolve over the coming year?

Chidi Okpala: The key drivers vary across the markets but P2P, Airtime and solutions for corporates has been big for us. In the coming years, mainstream financial services like loans, savings and insurance should be a lot more prominent. Our brand and best in class quality of service and security levels have also been a strong asset for us and made it easier for consumers to enroll and adopt Airtel Money.

Com World Series: How do the various stakeholders work together at the moment and what progress still needs to take place?

Chidi Okpala: The Airtel brand is a well-known and loved brand in Africa we have had the rare privilege of enjoying immense support from banking and communication regulators, governments, communities and other economic actors across our countries of operation. This has helped us lead in customer experience, product innovation and regulatory compliance across Africa. We are currently investing in deepening these engagements to ensure that we create prosperity for a lot more Africans by widening access to financial services. 

Com World Series: What are the remaining challenges in the mobile money area these days and how can they be overcome?

Chidi Okpala: As an industry, we require a lot more cooperation to compete; we believe that what binds us is greater than what separates us. We must see CASH as our sole competitor and hence should collaborate more to reduce cost and increase impact in our communities. We are already leading efforts to interoperate with other operators in Rwanda and this will have immense impact in the welfare of the Rwandese people. We see no reason why the industry should not interoperate across East Africa by end of this year.

Com World Series: What impact do you think mobile money can and will have on the retail sector in East Africa?

Chidi Okpala: The Retail sector is an important space for us and we are investing more in new products and services to ensure we bring solutions that match the needs of retailers and their consumers. Cash is the primary means of payments at retail points today and the cost of cash to both retailers and consumers is significant and unsustainable. There are also health challenges associated with cash handling. We have started implementing solutions that will take away these pains in a convenient and seamless fashion.

Com World Series: What other areas do you think MFS is likely to tap into in the near future?

Chidi Okpala: Mainstream financial services, healthcare, education, public transportation, m-government and Agriculture are just to name a few.

Com World Series: What do you hope to get out of participating in East Africa Com?

Chidi Okpala: Essentially, to learn from colleagues across the industry and engage with stakeholders on how we can collaborate better and deepen our societal impact

295x140-EastAfricaCom_2014 Find out more at East Africa Com - Chidi Okpala will be speaking on Day 1 at 14:30 on “Mobile financial services for operators”. Register Here