I was in Accra, Ghana last week for a customer and prospect event. Africa is on the cusp of incredible internet and mobile growth. Submarine cables are coming in, which means more bandwidth. And fiber is coming in to interconnect the continent, which means more bandwidth. And 3G is being deployed, which means more bandwidth. You get the picture – more bandwidth. Africa recently crossed the 500 million subscriber mark, with many of them young people. Put this all together and that means usage, usage, usage.
Mobile Value-Added Services will be required to help monetize the networks and provide differentiation, and bandwidth optimization will be required because the networks will be bending over and possibly breaking from the usage strain at some point soon. Both of these reasons are why Dialogic has a big interest in the African market.
Beyond that, I was very impressed with the energy and enthusiasm for those that attended our conference. They all see the opportunities coming in the telecommunications industry and feel they have something important to contribute.
Tarek Itani of Apliman, which has many Mobile VAS deployments throughout Africa, did a nice talk about the challenges with Mobile VAS in Africa, in particular with low ARPU users. He actually said offering VAS services is an “exceptional” opportunity for mobile operators to differentiate. If you are low on credit, they offer platforms such as collect call, collect SMS, gift SMS, mini-SMS, unit transfers, and loyalty services, where you get bonus points – kind of like a frequent flyer program. He has also developed an offering such as “roaming alert” where if I’m calling someone, I’ll be notified that the person may be roaming, so it’s kind of like a pre-test to see if it’s critical to get through since paying roaming charges would be something important to consider. These are different kinds of VAS services that readers of this blog may be used to, but value-added nonetheless. He also sees a big opportunity for what he called M-Wave, which are various kinds of Mobile Commerce applications, such as mobile banking, mobile health care, etc.
One of these Mobile Health offerings is from a company called Pharos-Avantgard, which has put together an offering where patients register their treatments, and then utilizing USSD and SMS, reminds patients to take medications and get the proper refills.
It’s an exciting time for the telecommunications industry in Africa and I’m sure I will be returning here more than a few times. See you next time.