Gearing Up for AfricaCom in Cape Town

Posted: November 8th, 2011 | Author: Andrew Gavin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

On 9 November, the 14th annual AfricaCom event kicks off in Cape Town, with the organisers expecting a record attendance, which they are predicting to be 12.5% higher than last year.

While I’m sure that the scenery and activities of Cape Town draw attendees, it is also certainly a reflection of the silver lining that Africa is to the economic cloud that hangs over many developed markets. For anybody in the telecoms industry, relatively high subscriber growth and low mobile penetration create compelling reasons to be doing business in Africa.

But, of course, Africa also has its fair share of challenges, most of which boil down to one thing: how to ensure profitability in highly competitive, price sensitive and sparsely populated markets. Most of the focus so far has been on controlling costs to enable pricing competitiveness—lean operations being something that the Comptel Dynamic OSS portfolio supports very well.

But this is only half the equation against a backdrop of high churn in Africa. As is generally recognised, it is almost always more expensive to acquire new subscribers than to keep them. Ultimately, African telecoms are entering a new battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of their subscribers in a quest to create a ‘stickiness’ for their hard won subscribers.

So it is encouraging to see that the tagline for AfricaCom this year, “Advancing Innovation & Profitability for a Digital Africa,” is recognising this key link between innovation and profitability.

Please do come and visit Comptel at Stand F5 at AfricaCom this week to discuss how we can help operators win the ‘hearts and minds’ of their customers through innovative OSS solutions.

FIFA World Cup 2010: Lessons Learned from Spain

Posted: July 13th, 2010 | Author: Andrew Gavin | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

On Monday morning, South Africa woke up with a big ‘hangover’ (figuratively, but no doubt also literally for many!), as the month long party that was the FIFA 2010 World Cup came to an all too sudden end. As if the final seemed to read South Africa’s desire for the tournament not to end, it took 116 minutes of dueling, with a penalty shootout looming four minutes away, before Iniesta’s goal saw Spain defeat the Netherlands 1-0.

Of course, the conclusion of the World Cup also kills my ‘license’ to waffle about football on what is a telecoms, and more specifically OSS, blog.

So what better way to conclude the blend of football / telecoms posts than to take a look at some of the lessons communication service providers (CSPs) in Africa could possibly learn from the winner of the World Cup – Spain.

  1. Get a good goalie. Spain did not win the tournament as one of the top goal scoring teams; in fact, they finished sixth on the list with only eight goals (their finals opponent, the Netherlands, were second with 12). The lesson for operators in Africa is that, in an environment where ARPUs are constrained by low GDP per capita, you cannot always ‘score lots of goals’—so you need to focus on ensuring that you do not ‘leak them’ to ensure profitability. In Spain’s case, they had Casillas as their goal keeper who went on to win the Golden Glove as the tournament’s best keeper, who only let through two goals in seven matches. For operators, this starts with a reliable OSS: automated fulfillment to remove the risks of user error (or fraud) and ensure that all activated services are being billed—and a robust policy control, charging and mediation platform to ensure that services are differentiated and all usage is being monetized. Comptel has many times seen the returns on investment operators have achieved by plugging revenue leaks using our tried and tested OSS solutions.
  2. Keep possession. One of the keys to Spain’s success was the way in which they strangled their opposition, starving them of the ball and reducing their goal-scoring opportunities. In the final, they had 57% of the possession. For operators in Africa, where about 96% of subscribers are prepaid without any tie-in, churn is a major issue, and CSPs need to focus on retaining their customers to ensure their opposition don’t score off them. This is, of course, easier said than done and involves a multi-pronged approach, including ensuring that the customer is not over-charged, services are quickly and reliably activated/de-activated and end-users have access to innovative services.
  3. Play the game—not the man. One of the features of the final was the aggressive approach the Dutch took in an effort to disrupt the Spanish game. While this appeared to work in the first half, the Spanish continued to focus on their game, and eventually, the Dutch had no response. Similarly, operators should avoid being dragged into price wars as a means of competing, but should focus on service innovation. Nobody ultimately wins price wars, and unless you are sure you can win playing ‘ugly’, you may find that your opposition actually has a better game than you. Key to doing this is the ability to rapidly launch new and innovative products to the market in a cost-effective manner. As a founder of the Product and Service Assembly Initiative (PSA), Comptel has been involved in many TM Forum (TMF) Catalysts since 2006, working with other operators and vendors on ‘proof of concepts’ to define how products can be rapidly launched by allowing existing and third-party capabilities to be discovered, modeled and assembled into marketable product bundles ready for automated fulfillment upon ordering. The lessons learned from this have been built into Comptel Catalog to assist operators in rapid, but cost-effective, product assembly.
  4. Get a Psychic Octopus on your side …

FIFA World Cup 2010 Kick-Off: Is South Africa (and Mobile Operators) Prepared?

Posted: June 8th, 2010 | Author: Andrew Gavin | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

With only a few days left until the FIFA World Cup kicks off, it feels as though the world is watching my home country, South Africa.

While the flow of news is increasingly focused on football (or soccer) itself rather than the preparations (thankfully!), there is still that nagging (even if unasked) question at the back of most peoples’ minds of whether South Africa can successfully host the single greatest sporting event on earth.

This is not only a doubt expressed by foreigners, but also South Africans who have endured seemingly endless infrastructure projects in preparation—road upgrades (and the resultant traffic jams), airport renovations (and waiting to board your plane from a temporary draughty tent structure), stadium and hotel building sites (noise pollution and more traffic jams)…and even shattered house windows from ‘over-eager’ blasting for the high-speed rail link in Johannesburg!

But now, most of these are completed, and over the past few weeks, South Africans have been getting increasingly excited.  Most roads have re-opened, the traffic jams caused by construction are now forgiven, travelers are thrilled with the new airport facilities, and talk-show radio stations have been inundated with calls from self-confessed naysayers who are now ‘believers’.

Of course, the recent (surprise) show of form by South Africa’s own team (Bafanna Bafanna) culminating in the ‘friendly’ win over Denmark the other day has only helped to raise the sense of excitement that South Africans themselves may actually have something to cheer about.  Even my grumpy and cynical old father-in-law bought my four year old son South African flag face paint after that victory.

Now, we have to convince the world.  The majority of spectators will not experience the World Cup first hand but rather via the media and conversations with friends there.

That brings me to one bit of infrastructure where the investment has been almost ‘invisible’ and not affected me personally at all—and that is telecoms.  Of course, the communications infrastructure dedicated to supporting the organizers and media is unlikely to have any direct impact on me or the majority of visitors now—but the mobile networks will be a different story, as these will be inundated by visitors using their mobiles to ‘stay in touch’.

Visitors calling families at home, sneaking a look at work emails, looking up directions to the hotel, updating their Facebook status (‘At WC Final’)…  For many visitors in an increasingly ‘online-addicted world’, some of the experience will be defined by them having (or not) continuous and seamless Internet access on their mobiles.  One thing for sure is that the demands placed on the mobile data networks will never have been as high at previous football World Cups.

Will they cope?  Only time will tell.  The real impact of the investment on mobile networks will only become evident once the games begin.  And, one only hopes that the impact will live on where I, the consumer, can benefit from the supposedly extra capacity following the World Cup, with reduced prices and better service.  Then the question for the operators, once the visitors have gone home, will not be so much how to manage the demands on their data networks, but how to maximize and recoup their investments in that capacity.  Here’s looking forward to the kick-off—and excess network capacity after the World Cup.