Trends in the telecommunications industry

Since the advent of Internet and of the information age, telecommunications have been one of the main drivers of global development and value creation. We have asked Manish, our in-house telco expert, to bring to light the telco trends that are currently shaping the industry and the challenges that it is facing.

What is the current state of telecommunications globally and in Mauritius?

In an increasingly interconnected world, the telecommunications sector is stimulating new business models. Operators, enablers of connectivity for other sectors, are reviewing their business models to keep up with the pace and magnitude of technological breakthroughs. The rise of OTT players like WhatsApp or FaceTime is interfering with incumbent telcos, and Mauritius is no exception. Local mobile operators are seeing a decline of the total consumer spend on traditional voice service even while overall communication activity grows. Africa, an emerging and relatively untapped market, presents itself as the final frontier for telecom operators, namely in comparison to more mature markets like Europe, Asia or North America. The opportunities for growth are significant

Coming out on top of the digital revolution demanded a thorough review of our business model and investment strategy.

The rise of digital media and mobile technology has prompted telecom operators to radically review their business models and services. How has RCTS (Rogers Capital Technology Services) innovated to meet these changes?

RCTS, one of the regional market leaders, has been operating in the traditional IT sector for years, providing enterprise infrastructure and business solutions. Our management rapidly realised that telecommunications would be a motor for growth in the new digital economy – so long as emerging trends in SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) were forestalled. Coming out on top of the digital revolution demanded a thorough review of our business model and investment strategy. We are currently the only provider to offer end-to-end solutions. The vertical integration gives us a greater capacity to control over quality and the customer journey. We are also working on development of new capabilities in Digital Transformation and the Internet of Things, which offer big opportunities.

 

The ICT sector, characterized by dynamic growth, is poised to become the third pillar of the Mauritian economy. How is this sector benefiting the island?

With Mauritius having crossed the one million Internet subscribers milestone, and Internet becoming ubiquitous (adequate infrastructure, mobile Internet coverage and network access and user capability), Mauritians can get online and be a part of the global community. The economic benefits of connectivity and the social impact on our communities at large are substantial. Talent can be exported across borders while individuals and firms can tap into a wealth of data, conduct business and benefit irrespective of time zones.

How do our skills and infrastructure currently match up?

We have a shortage of skilled workers despite a pool of labor. The rapidly-evolving nature of this sector means the skillset needs to continuously be updated. We have witnessed a surge in the industry as emerging trends reshape the way we do business. Yet, the skillset is lacking. It is imperative that our education system review its curriculum in order to educate and train students to perform in a technology-driven economy. The number of businesses in the tech sector is increasing, and providing interesting job opportunities. At RCTS we have policies and incentives to attract and retain talent. Reaching out to people with a digital acumen is the surest way to cultivate the next generation of specialists.

The telco sector is stimulating new business models.

A cyber-attack could cripple customers, businesses and government operations. What measures – government-led and enterprise-wide – are being taken to protect networks?

It is very important to understand that it is incumbent upon all of us – not just the government or enterprises – to ensure that the security issue is being addressed. It begins with awareness. At every level, a lot is being done to implement adequate policies, directives and measures, as well as hardening of networks and systems while simultaneously developing skills in the field of information security to be able to prevent and react to a security breach.

More than half of the world’s population is still without internet access. What role can telecommunications play in integrating marginalized people?

Telecommunications merely serves as an enabler of access to Information. In parallel, a number of measures must be taken to afford marginalized populations the same freedom, liberty of expression and access to information as those who are connected to the global network. The democratization of knowledge begins with governments recognizing that all populations, including vulnerable ones, have a right to universal access. By working at grassroots levels, we can greatly improve citizens’ livelihoods and enable sustainable development within our communities.

Certain traditional financial institutions are partnering with tech startup ventures in order to instigate a more rapid and efficient digitization transformation. What sort of partnerships would benefit telecom operators?

A number of traditional telco giants have established venture capital units that invest at an early stage in startups, which tend to adapt faster (this is vital when you consider the pace and magnitude of innovation.) However, to identify and assess these opportunities, it helps to have an understanding of how the telecom ecosystem functions. So as not to fall behind, telecom providers are increasingly pursuing joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions or investing heavily in R&D, creating, in the process, digital ecosystems that involve key industry actors. This is no easy feat as companies like Google and Apple have a head start. In order to thrive, telecom operators must enter the right partnerships.

In a dynamic sector like this one, the pace of change is so fast that even looking a few years down the road is of strategic importance. What lies ahead?

As Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence gain momentum in the new digital economy, they will undeniably shape the ICT sector’s future performance and instigate ‘breakthrough’ moments. The new era of 5G – characterized by high broadband speeds and intelligent networks – will provide seamless connectivity and support over 50 billion devices by 2020. Blockchain, which until recently was mainly of interest to financial institutions, presents incredible opportunities for ICT – reducing roaming fraud, optimizing ID management with smart contracts, increasing revenues from identity-as-a-service solutions are only a few of them. We are only just beginning to unlock the potential of IoT. Fast-forward a few years, and they will be entrenched across the sector. No doubt, exciting times lie ahead…

Before joining Rogers Capital, Manish was leading the development of a regional IT/Telecom services provider. Since 2015, he has been continuously enhancing Rogers Capital’s telecommunication value proposal to help our clients communicate faster and safer wherever they operate.