Africa well positioned for leap to 4G LTE

With its capacity for innovation, Africa’s mobile network sector is well positioned to drive the explosion in service offerings on the back of 4G LTE implementations.  This is the view of Sherry Zameer, Africa and Middle East Head of telecommunication solutions for Gemalto, world leader in digital security.   Zameer’s comments follow the AfricaCom conference held in Cape Town last week, which was attended by some 8000 delegates from over 100 different countries.

“Africa is largely unrestricted by legacy platforms and onerous regulations, and so has the capacity to leapfrog standard 3G migrations, to embrace LTE and all the benefits of better quality service and content possibilities that the next generation platform provides,” Zameer continued.

While LTE penetration stands at less than 0.003 percent of the market in Africa, Rwanda, for example, is poised to implement LTE from the get go.

Spectrum is an Issue

“Successful LTE implementations in Africa will depend on how well the issue of spectrum is addressed and how well wireless services (radio) work with LTE to deliver the quality of service required,” Zameer added.

“Africa has a track record of innovation and being first to market in many instances (e.g. M-Pesa and dynamic tariffing) and I expect that the implementation of 4G LTE will be no different,” he said.

While the continent is poised to take telecoms growth to a whole new level, questions among attendees at the conference remain as to how generate profits on new service options, once LTE is deployed

“This will prove to be pivotal,” Zameer said.

Profitable engagement with outside stakeholders - key

With LTE, comes greater opportunity for customer engagement via mobile marketing platforms as well as business-to-business transactions via machine to machine (m2m).  The latter involves the development of sophisticated ecosystems and reliance on a number of stakeholders other than the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) itself.

“For MNO’s the question really is how to leverage these new content opportunities and different take-to market-models, as they fall outside of the traditional delivery of voice and data services,” Zameer said.

Data and payments on growth path

Data is still a key driver in the sector with estimates of prepaid bundles being around $6 for voice and $20 for data.  This means that there is still appetite for data driven applications.

Because most Africans do not have access to banking services or bank cards, Zameer believes mobile payments will continue to be a key driver for transactional services, and with that mobile security.  "Both will drive growth in the sector,” he added.

Gemalto has won a number of innovation awards for its LTE- related platforms. Its LinqUs Advanced OTA platform enables networks to smoothly transition to LTE during an evolutionary period of mixed network technologies.   The company has also been the leading global technology behind many high-profile commercial LTE deployments, including Verizon and MetroPCS, the first two operators in North America to migrate to LTE.

“With billions of connected devices forecast to be deployed in the near future, the wireless ecosystem is changing. This creates new opportunities for mobile network operators to act as service providers for a diverse range of applications such as NFC, Machine-to-Machine (M2M), or streaming multimedia content,” Zameer said.

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