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"Embracing rather than fighting OTT services will be a game changer" Interview of Evans Muhanga, CMO, Zamtel

Evans Muhanga is the Chief Marketing Officer for Zambia Telecommunications (Zamtel) a landline and mobile telephony company with 1.6million customers. He has over 10 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry having worked for Celtel Zambia (now Airtel) and Celtel/Zain Sierra Leone previously.
Evans will be joining a panel discussion on identifying new revenue opportunities for fixed and mobile operators beyond voice at AfricaCom on Wednesday 18thNovember, alongside representatives of Telkom South Africa, Lumata,Malawi Telecommunications,Rekindle Learning and Airtel Africa.
He answers a few questions on the market ahead of the event.

What is your company’s position in Zambia’s market? 

Zamtel is a private company, wholly owned by the Government of Zambia.  Zamtel plays in the mobile, fixed and internet market.  We are the sole provider of fixed line services in Zambia, and number 2 in the internet market.  From the mobile market point of view, we are the third player, with a market share of almost 15%.

What do you think will be this year’s most game-changing development in Africa’s telecoms? 

We believe embracing rather than fighting OTT services will be a game changer.  In addition, telecom operators adopting triple and quad play services will be in the fore-front of changing the African telecom space.  Mobile Money will continue to make an impact, with more operators providing this service across the continent, and also having more than one player in a specific market. 

What services will enable telecom operators to generate revenue from data? 

The challenge facing Africa today is a low internet penetration rate – 27.5% as at December 2014 compared to a world average of 42.4%.  As a first step, operators need to improve this penetration, by making access to internet easy and affordable.  This in itself will result in improved revenues for operators.  In addition, by adopting OTT players, triple and quad play services and the advent of “internet of everything” will help operators gain more revenue. 

What will be the impact of the digital transition on the telecoms and media sector? 

The digital transition is more of a positive impact on the consumer, as this will enable growth of the media sector in providing more high quality services and diverse content.  This however comes with  a cost, to both the consumer and provider. 

What are the regulatory requirements for improving affordable access to broadband? 

Whilst price is a key factor in the provision of broadband services, service availability also plays a key role.  For the regulator, it is not normally their brief to dictate prices of products and services.  The operator will play a bigger role in providing affordable access by ensuring that the continued trend of reducing wholesale bandwidth costs are passed on to the consumer.  Regulators also need to coordinate and control the “digging” of areas when it comes to laying cables.  The current trend, especially in Zambia, is that anyone digs anywhere, resulting in cables appearing everywhere.  Unlike first world countries, a duct is already in the ground, provided by the council or regulator, and is rented by operators to physically lay their cable.

How can telecom and digital brands create more value for African consumers?

By working closely together, for you to deliver any type of digital brands, you need the telecom infrastructure to ride on.  All that is needed is a business model that is a win/win for both the digital and telecom businesses.  For the consumer, its results in better experience and a variety of content.
How can operators support innovation within their organisations and in the wider ecosystem? 
If the operator has the resources to support the IT and Technical departments to specifically look at development and innovative ideas, or investing in R&D as well as liaising with customer services, then they can develop solutions in-house.  However, operators have to work with third party VAS and development players. 

How can the communications needs of enterprises be met in order to sustain economic growth in the region? 

Each customer’s requirements are unique and as such operators must be flexible when it comes to meeting customer demands.

For more information of the New Revenue Streams session at AfricaCom, check the brochure here.

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