After years of uninterrupted growth, the African telecoms market is at a crossroads. With slowing economic growth on the continent and increasing competition in the market, operators are in a fierce fight to win subscribers, boost market share and earn revenues. The telecoms industry in Africa will therefore probably see further mergers and acquisitions as mobile operators seek economies of scale.
Yet the rollout of 4G and other transformative technologies means that there are huge opportunities for enterprising operators. French telecoms solution provider Astellia is using cutting-edge analytics and technological support to give African operators the edge over their competitors. African Business caught up with Mahmoud Oubraham, Managing Director of Astellia Africa, to discuss how the market is changing.
AB: How long has Astellia been involved in the African telecoms market?
Africa is part of our historic footprint. The company started in 2000, we started in Africa in 2004, and have now been there more than 12 years. There are very few countries where we are not present. We count different subsidiaries of Orange, MTN, Airtel, Vodafone, Etisalat etc. amongst our customers. The business represents roughly 20% of our turnover. We just opened a new branch in Morocco to help with operations across the African market. We are increasing our presence, and we are building regional business units with project management, support and commercial teams. We are investing concretely in the African market--it's not just nice words.
AB: How do you work with mobile operators to open 4G networks in African countries?
What we do in 4G is crucial for operators, because financial constraints are hard on them. They usually have limited budgets and have to invest in the right places to get a good return on investment. We can help with that. Even before they've launched 4G, we can inform them of the spots where 4G devices are already in the hands of customers. We can give them the spots where data connections are massive. They would then know where to roll out the network. This will have a very positive impact because when they launch in the right places they can get revenues back quickly, justify investment in other places, and accelerate their 4G rollout.
AB: How do you work with suppliers to ensure 4G network quality?
As an operator you have a few milestones in life where you need to be successful, when you will be stamped by subscribers as a good or bad...