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"Telecoms in Africa can help make a significant difference to people’s lives” Interview of Tony Dolton, CEO Unitel Angola

Tony Dolton is CEO of Unitel in Angola.  He will be joining a keynote panel discussion on the second day of the event on how LTE is changing the digital landscape, alongside representatives of other operators such as Vodacom and MTC in Namibia.
He answers a few questions on the market ahead of the event.

AfricaCom: What is your Unitel's position in Africa’s market?

Tony Dolton: Unitel is the number one telecom operator in Angola, with over 11M  subscribers and a market share in excess of 80%. We aim to be among the largest independently owned operators in Africa, and to do so we believe in innovation and technological differentiation, combined with unrivalled quality of service. The 450 Mbps LTE downlink speed demonstration we carried out recently together with our investment in national and metropolitan fibre networks is evidence of our willingness and commitment to be at the forefront of technology in Africa.
Unitel’s goal is to enable the development of businesses and people based on high quality and high-speed connectivity.

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

TD: Not so much game changing but the continued evolution of Big data together with more highly accessible broadband capacity at higher speeds will allow more innovation and greater opportunity for Africa.

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

TD: With higher speeds and bandwidth and more reliable services, the Mobile Telecoms operators in Africa have the opportunity to reach into the more traditional fixed line services in the Enterprise area and to develop new revenue streams such as VPN’s or Closed User Groups, as well as M2M, ICT and traditional data services. To offer affordable Enterprise services in areas of low fixed coverage should be the objective of all Mobile operators.
In the consumer segment, the Mobile operators still have some way to go to get customers using data and this can be achieved by providing the right pricing, affordable but good quality devices and the content that will drive usage. However to grow this area we must also provide the support to help educate potential customers of the value that data services can bring to their personal and business lives.  We strongly believe that there is much that can be learnt from the OTT suppliers in providing content as a service rather than content in terms of Mega Bytes or Giga Bytes.

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

TD: The big impact is of course the convergence of content and delivery and the need to be “connected always” which implies significant additional investments into the network infrastructure.  To make this affordable from a cost perspective the Mobile operators need to focus on greater efficiency and better delivery services.

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

TD: Although in Angola there are no specific regulatory requirements for improving affordable access to broadband, similar to a significant number of countries, the Government has approved and published in 2011 the White Book for the sector. Herein it is clear that generalized access to broadband is an immediate challenge and necessary to reduce the asymmetry of Angola compared to other countries with a more consolidated stage of socioeconomic development.

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

TD: Mobile operators in Africa have a significant opportunity, through engagement with our customers to fully understand how we can enable them to connect, grow, learn and to develop their communities, businesses and relationships. 
Africa is a hugely culturally diverse, colorful and challenging continent that struggles in the provision of many of the basic services, such as good health and good education. The telecoms sector can help make a significant difference to people’s lives:
- through providing local and relevant information everywhere -  national music, sports and local content
- by providing services that can help in people daily lives, such as as mobile money, e-learning, m-health, school and university connectivity, virtual classrooms for remote areas and support for SME activity (agriculture, fishery, small technological businesses, etc.)

A. How can operators support innovation within their organizations and in the wider ecosystem?

TD: Innovation is at the heart of our organization and it is our aim to not only promote innovation in our own business but also promote innovation with our products and services to inspire our customers.  Whilst we all have a responsibility to create a culture of innovation we have set up a small dedicated team who are responsible for the promotion and encouragement of innovation across the organization and they also work with universities and small local start-up businesses in Angola to develop new ideas and concepts

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

TD: There is an insatiable thirst for higher speeds and bigger bandwidths and the development and growth of the ICT sector is critical to the continued development of the continent.  This includes the continued expansion of the cable interconnection in and out of Africa, to drive down the cost of delivery.  To meet this increasing demand we must invest not just in our networks but also in the people of Africa.  We must insist that our product suppliers localize expertise in the continent, that we develop the ability to train locally and that the universities are doing the right courses for ICT.  The development of ICT skills and abilities is one of our greatest challenges at the moment.  

For more details on the AfricaCom programme download the brochure here.

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