The Future of African Telecoms

Posted on January 4, 2018 12:29 am

The rate of change in the African telecommunications industry is moving quite fast and there’s a feeling that the boom years are either over or coming to an end. A researcher for telcos in sub saharan Africa told your blogger the tech sector in the region has seen enormous disruptive changes affect social life, politics and business. She however warned the accelerating pace of change makes predictions hard even for 2019 let alone 2020 and it is better to take a holistic approach when analyzing the market trends. Her work approach is that she doesn’t predict the most likely outcomes of the telcos market but illustrates what could plausibly happen in the industry and how market players might deal with the many uncertainties along the way. She was categorical that African traditional telcos may struggle to survive beyond the next decade unless they embraces the opportunity presented by digital.One thing she was clear about is how content is a vital part of the telco sector’s future across Africa and noted content has become an increasingly important part of telco strategy over the last three years. In South Africa, two telco companies are looking to become multi media companies and are looking at buying content and broadcast rights which have traditionally been a reserve for Tv companies.She said the planned moves in South Africa are another example, probably the biggest one yet, of telcos realizing just how important content is to their customers. But she believes, it is more than that. It is a content company making that content even more valuable by delivering it everywhere, by making it more available that ever before, she added.On the other hand, major telecommunications operators in Africa are deploying highly advanced technologies to strengthen their operations and to help their partners in other sectors pursue digital transformation.Without naming the exact companies, she said at least more than 20 telcos are embracing artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to enhance their competitive edge. Her view is that such moves will help telcos unlock formidable potential to better serve their customers.

One of the telcos that has fully embraced artificial intelligence for online marketing is also working with a developer from Europe to test similar features for customer care chatbots.Another telco is using machine learning to determine which call package best matches an individual customer’s usage.She explained that machine learns from which packages the telcos customers choose and their subsequent usage allowing it to continuously refine the offer. When it comes to content, some media companies are changing their strategies with intense focus put on creating, owning and controlling their own content. She also has a feeling there is a strong chance there will be further tie-ups between media companies and telco operators in Africa going forward.Her view is that telcos are going to go after live sport and mainstream content like comedy where the audience has shown a high level of passion and commitment to such moves.Media companies on the other hand have set out to create shows they are striving for that high level every time as the role of content for the telcos is only rising. According to her, the Internet of Things will be a critical technology in the development for the telcos in Africa but will also a huge technological challenge for them. The number of connected devices in Africa could double in the next three years as Internet of Things becomes widespread, and that calls for much more advanced networks than those in use today.She said telecom operators in Africa will have to roll out virtualised core networks to allow them to scale network capacity much more rapidly and efficiently.If that were to happen, your blogger’s view is that the era of the network being a point of differentiation would end and competition in new areas such as content would ramp up even further. In the African telco industry’s quest for top line growth, content acquisition will become a sensible target. The future for telcos is content, so it makes absolute sense that they are looking to acquire creators of content which will open new revenue streams for the telco industry.Listening to the researcher, it’s their future that depends on them having a wonderful content associations.Creating good quality content and building an audience for it will not easy, so I stands to reason that telcos interested in such ventures will look at companies that fill that gap of content for them rather than try to do it themselves.There’s no argument getting access to the premium content is the difficult part for telcos but i think content is always going to be the point of differentiation and hold the opinion that Africa telcos clearly would want premium video and thats why I agree that content will a determining factor in success or failure of telcos in the region.

Contador Harrison