Impressions from AfricaCom 2018

Impressions from AfricaCom 2018

I had the pleasure of attending the Africa Com conference mid-November, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa. If I had to choose three words to describe this year’s show, I would say: energetic, engaging and exhilarating. Indeed, with 14,000 attendees and 400 exhibitors, AfricaCom is clearly the most important Information Communication Technology event on the African continent.

This year, Amdocs Optima hosted a VIP lounge area, where we met with customers,  got familiar with the new faces in the CSP leadership and were introduced to even more innovative and inspiring ideas. The following are some of the African telco trends and insights I picked up.

Better connectivity

With satellite technologies boosting wireless connectivity on the continent, satellite communication vendors were out in full force. This creates growth opportunities for existing and new service providers, who can now offer wireless data connectivity to millions of people in areas they couldn’t reach before. The internet household penetration in Africa is of 7% — so there is much room for growth.

In terms of mobile phone subscribers, Africa crossed the 1 billion mobile connections mark in 2017, and mobile operators are actively seeking to increase that number. MTN and China Mobile have partnered to distribute 10 million affordable 3G ‘smart feature phones’ to the African market over the next 3 years to help accelerate internet penetration. These will include rear and front-facing cameras as well as key Google apps which run on KaiOS as well as other features and apps.

ALWAYS BE IN THE KNOW

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Media & entertainment

Most of the service providers we met with are planning to expand their offering to include also entertainment over the coming year, bundled with mobile connectivity packages. This will enable customers to watch CSPs’ sponsored content via their mobile devices. This is yet another domain where Amdocs can promote its customers’ strategy, by offering the largest content libraries worldwide, by Vubiquity, part of our media & entertainment, which recently launched Cell C’s entertainment offering, labeled Black.

Enterprises and the cloud

Just like their counterparts in the US and Europe, large service providers in Africa are looking to extend their offerings into the business sector, especially to large enterprises. This demands high-speed connectivity, cyber security, SDN, NFV, Microsoft Office licenses and migration to a private cloud in their own data centers.

However, big tech cloud services are just around the corner: in addition to Microsoft Azure, Google and AWS launching in South Africa by 2020, new competition is emerging from Asia with the rise of Alibaba Cloud. This will require local CSPs to align and add public cloud offerings as well.

IoT/IoE

Last year, South Africa nearly exhausted all its water, which led to tight water restrictions throughout the country and created the need to closely monitor water usage (I even had a stopper in the shower in my hotel room). To address this, Vodacom is offering water and electricity monitoring sensors and applications to utility providers and municipalities. Together with Nokia, Vodacom also offers wearable sensors embedded in emergency services uniforms and life jackets.

Another example of IoT offerings by telcos is the MTN-IBM Wildlife solution. Sensors placed on wild animals notify the reserve inspectors when and where these animals are running away, enabling rangers to reach the area quickly to prevent animal slaughter and the poaching of endangered rhinos.

5G

In a wholly dedicated track, discussions were held on the deployment and early benefits of 5G. The first use case is enabling fixed wireless broadband on the continent. This will be followed by what is being termed “massive IOT” roll out and other latency sensitive applications aimed at the enterprise. However, 5G’s relevance is being called into question given the high associated costs compared to the uptake of 3G and 4G that has not yet been fully exploited.

One of the most convincing applications for 5G I’ve seen so far was Nokia’s 5G demo for the manufacturing industry, where translating data to ‘feeling’ requires extremely high bandwidth transmitted in milli-seconds. Through a digital finger, which allows you to virtually touch and feel different textures, I could actually feel the difference between rough and silky surfaces!

Innovation is alive and well in Africa, speeding up digital transformation endeavors across the continent. And Amdocs Optima is looking forward to taking part in this journey.