How Mobile Network Operators are evolving and investing to service everyone

Absa Insights is a portal where the bank’s sector experts share essential learnings and new developments with its clients and other businesses. The world is changing; so in 2019 Absa has introduced a series of discussions featuring high-level thinking around Consumer Goods and Services, Agriculture, Telecommunications, Mining and Energy and Infrastructure. Bookmark Absa Insights, where the bank shares insights from discussions designed to help you navigate the ever-shifting trends that are shaping the economy.

pixabay.com, 2019

The cost of data and access to networks capable of handling data-intensive applications has been a hot button issue in South Africa for years.

Providing communication services is capital intensive and driven mostly by private investors who expect a return.

We need to calculate the cost of not connecting everybody and leaving some people out of the economy... because they don't have affordable access. It's incredibly important that, as an industry, we provide affordable access to everybody...

Juanita Clark, CEO - FTTX Council Africa

Africa's large, densely populated urban centres have, in the main, well-developed telco infrastructure.

Not so in most of the Continent's vast tracts of rural areas that require massive capital investments.

Low population density and low revenue per user pose a challenge.

The regulator needs to step up... Models of shared infrastructure enable the provision of services...

Premeshin Naidoo, Absa Corporate and Investment Bank

New technologies that promise a solution to the challenge of providing telco services in rural areas:

  • TV white space

  • Satellite technologies

  • Using the power grid to provide fibre

It's not a question of technology... it's more about making it economically viable... Without subsidisation to get it on its feet, I don't think it's a problem we can solve...

Bora Varliyagci, CEO - DigitalThings

(Also, read: Mobile Network Operators increasingly don't own towers and other infrastructure)

MNOs nowadays are more likely to invest in things such as cloud services, music and entertainment as well as financial services than in towers or other immovable infrastructure.

I don't think we'll see communication service providers becoming utilities. But we will probably see these other independent infrastructure players becoming utilities.

Bora Varliyagci, CEO - DigitalThings

For more detail, listen to Premeshin Naidoo (Absa Corporate Investment Bank) facilitating a discussion between Bora Varliyagci (CEO, DigitalThings) and Juanita Clark (CEO of FTTX Council Africa) on the evolution that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring and opportunities around digitisation.


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