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26 \ Feature \ February 2013

says the transformation will augment Airtel’s network capacity with the latest technologies from Ericsson. “[The] customer is the pillar of Airtel’s business. The development will enable us to further enrich our customer experience across the continent. It will also allow us to provide Airtel subscribers with the best network possible while meeting the growing volume of mobile data usage,” he said. Having recorded a subpar performance in voice and message, the firm seems to be betting on data, one of the fastest-growing mobile products in Africa. Bharti Airtel has injected about $94 million into the rollout of its 3G network in Kenya. The firm says the funds will be used to expand its network spots from 360 to 550 by May. “The development will help us tap into the growing youthful market, who seem to be huge consumers of mobile data. It will also position Airtel in a market segment that is the next frontier for revenue generation,” Mr Bhargava said. The new technology is anticipated to ease network congestion and dispense fast connections for users of tablets and smartphones, a lucrative and fast-growing market. Studies show that take-up of 3G mobile telecommunications technology is still lagging in most parts of Africa, posing a huge challenge to the 4G rollout, a relatively faster technology that is now being launched in developed countries. An Indian audit firm, Phimetrics, says 3G penetration is still low in Kenya as Orange’s 3G accessibility is at 93.3 per cent, with 1.2-second delay and 1079.2 kilobyte per second throughputs, while Safaricom’s is at 97.2 per cent accessibility with 899.1 kpbs throughputs and 2.2-second delay. For all these improvements, winning the data frontier that is already dominated by telecom giants MTN, Vodacom and Safaricom may not be an easy task. These firms are already running 4G trials in South Africa. Safaricom is also testing the technology. MTN’s strategy of using local talent to run its marketing has been touted as one of the reasons behind its fast expansion in the continent. According to the firm’s chief marketing officer, Santie Botha, MTN operates as a global brand with nine out of ten of its marketing team made up of homegrown talent. The Johannesburg Stock Exchangelisted mobile phone service provider operator has operations in more than 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East. Its subscriber base stands as 183 million with nearly 60 per cent of the

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revenues generated outside South Africa. It operates in: Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Iran, Afghanistan, Benin, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Liberia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Perhaps it was the 2010 FIFA World Cup sponsorship that gave the firm a robust international grip. The deal saw an African company for the first time acquire global rights to the most watched football competition in the world. It enabled MTN to stamp its aspirations as a global brand onto a global event. “It was an ideal opportunity for us to leverage the powerful assets of MTN to an international audience, and to show that the time for Africa had come. It meant a lot to us to be part of a unique global movement,” said MTN Group President and CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa. The sponsorship gave the firm an edge

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Bharti Airtel MTN Vodacom Safaricom Ltd.

over its close rival, Vodacom, which has nearly 50 million subscribers in Africa. Also listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Vodacom is majority-owned by Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies by revenue. The firm has operations in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho. 

 According to the World Bank, the future of Africa’s telecommunications sector will mainly be shaped by innovation and strategies aimed at beating the competition in an increasingly tough market. “Operators who invest in technology will have an upper hand in this fast-expanding market. More importantly, the pricing of data could play a huge role in amassing market share,” said Ignacio Mas, the Senior Advisor in the Financial Services for the Poor programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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616 million Mobile Phone Subscribers in Africa

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616 million Mobile Phone Subscribers in Africa

Gateway to Africa February 2013  

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