[AfrICANN-discuss] African telcos call for innovation

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Sun Apr 1 11:27:45 SAST 2012

African telcos call for innovation

by Alex Kayle, March 28, 2:23 pm

Africa could one day see a local Amazon-type data centre being built, says
ex-Google MD, Stafford Masie.
Telecoms players across Africa need to form co-operative ties and
infrastructure-sharing models, rather than be competitive, in order to
boost Internet accessibility and drive down data costs.

This is according to Andile Ngcaba, chairman of Convergence Partners, who
said telecoms pricing structures must change. He pointed out that much of
Africa's telecoms traffic continues to be routed via Europe instead of
staying on the continent.

Africa's largest telecoms service provider, Gateway Communications, hosted
an industry panel, under the theme: the “Future of African Connectivity”.

Ngcaba suggested that, by 2019, voice will be “insignificant and could be
free” as the demand for data will overtake voice.

He said: “Sharing has to become an indispensable part of the new business
model as we move into big data. Telcos need to look at a shared
infrastructure model, whether its fibre, towers or satellite, particularly
as we move closer towards big data and the Internet of things.

“We need a future whereby infrastructure will become a platform that a
number of telco players will acquire.” He said that, as cloud computing
changed the way organisations moved away from building their own data
centres, the same concept will be applied to telecoms infrastructure.


“People will be prudent to look at their investments and the concept of
sharing has to be part and parcel for our industry,” Ngcaba added.

According to technology entrepreneur and ex-Google MD Stafford Masie, the
highest data costs come from the consumption of foreign Web content. He
said international content players must bring their platforms and content
to Africa.

“In the next 36 months, there will be the arrival of new technologies that
will change the network and we will see the pendulum shifting to data. The
model will be less about voice revenue and more about proliferation of
smart devices for mobile payment transactions.

“Ultimately, what data consumers are using doesn't reside on the Internet.
Africa needs to attract international content platforms to bring more data
centres on the continent. The second challenge is to create local content
platforms that are standards-based and not proprietary.

“There is a huge opportunity to take African-generated content to the
world, which is underestimated. We've got the last mile challenge and
over-the-top players that think of Africa as a difficult place to do
business, and we need to convince them otherwise.”

Masie indicated that, in the next 24 months, Africa could see a local
Amazon-type data centre that could spur investment and drop data and hosted
service costs.

Masie claimed that, in coming years, voice will be replaced by
gesture-based communication through devices. He added that storage capacity
is evolving at such a rapid rate that we will soon be able to get a
snapshot of the entire Internet on a single device.

Mike van den Bergh, CEO of Gateway Communications, pointed out that, seven
years ago, 75% of the Internet was in English; today, it's less than 25%,
signalling the importance of local content.

Ibrahima Guimba Saidou, African VP and GM at SES, said that between 20% and
40% of the African population does not have access to voice, let alone
data, and that it is these individuals, mostly in rural areas, who demand

Chris Wood, CEO of WIOCC, said one of the biggest challenges facing the
telecoms industry in Africa is providing landlocked countries accessibility
to sub-sea cables. He added that barriers need to be broken in order to
facilitate cross-border connectivity rollout.
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