AirtelTigo CEO talks-up digitalization agenda and industry trends

By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana

Ghana’s second largest mobile operator AirtelTigo is at the forefront of a digital agenda in the country, thanks to its wider network coverage. In addition, the company is partnering smartphone manufactures to enable increased access to the internet and making the lives of many Ghanaians simple by staying connected.

The Chief Executive Officer of AirtelTigo Ghana, Mrs Mitwa Kaemba Ng’ambi told Biztechafrica in an interview in Accra that following the successful completion of its network integration last year as a result of the merger between former Airtel and Tigo, the company currently has a large3G spectrum holding which needs to be fully utilized todeliver higher speed internet connectivity services to subscribers.

“We are delivering much higher data speedstoday, than we were delivering as two separate companies, based on the spectrum we have. Of course, that does not mean we will never bid for 4G spectrum in the future. When more spectrum is a pre-requisite for us to deliver even faster speeds, then acquiring 4G spectrum would definitely be of consideration,” Mrs. Ng’ambi added.

From business focus perspective, she said: “we currently have the most spectrum in the country, let’s see how we can maximize that to benefit our customers.”

Five months ago, AirtelTigo failed to put in a bid to acquire any of the three lots of 2x5MHz frequency blocks in 800Mz spectrum following an auction by the National Communications Authority, leaving many industry observers wondering when Ghana’s second telecom leader by market share would join competitors including MTN and Vodafone to provide fast, reliable internet connectivity on the 4G LTE platform to its teeming subscribers.

Breaking the silence, Mrs Ng’ambi maintains that, AirtelTigo as a new company finds itself in a unique position within Ghana’s telecom space with it consolidated 3G spectrum which allows the delivery of high speed data.

“We are one of a kind in the situation where we came together as two companies and we have consolidated our spectrum so the immediate focus for us as a business is how we can we make efficient or good use of our spectrum before acquiring more.”

According to the GSMA Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2018 Report, despite the number of 4G network launches, 3G will emerge as the dominant technology in the region over the next few years, accounting for 60 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s connections by the end of the forecast period.

It also noted that despite advances in LTE and efforts to improve network economics for 4G deployments, a number of operators in the region are continuing to invest in both expanding 3G network coverage and launching new 3G networks.

The report then attributed its prediction concerning the growth around 3G to the ongoing prevalence of featurephones means 3G networks can support both voice services on these more basic devices as well as data services on smartphones.

If the GSMA report is anything to go by, then Mrs Ng’ambi seems to be having her hands absolutely on the right button poised with her team to offer a wide range of telecommunications services, including mobile voice, data mobile financial service, business managed services and transforming lives through sustainable corporate social investment initiatives.

She explains that with its commitment to invest in the network, the company will improve its current 3G speed by close to twice as much and deliver very high-speed quality data for subscribers.  

Sharing her thoughts on global trends that has the potential of shaping Africa’s telecom industry in the years ahead, AirtelTigo CEO pointed to more collaborative efforts among key strategic players and the surge in the acceleration of smartphones penetration as key features likely to impact positively on Africa’s bubbly telecommunication sector.

“I think we have seen a lot more appetite for collaboration across the giants in the industry. When talking about collaboration I mean consolidation, mergers and acquisitions efforts and all of these are being done so that innovative business models can be sort and found to enable business to live sustainably. Classic example is what happened with AirtelTigo. So, Bharti and Millicom separately had Tigo and Airtel in Ghana, between the two of them one had 12% market share the other one had about 14% and these businesses have been around for a number of years, but you would need significant muscle to significantly play in the market and succeed in the longer term,” Mrs Ng’ambi noted.

“So, you see people or players like these rather think, let consolidate our efforts so that we can eliminate our inefficiencies we have in our operations. Consolidation kills things like duplicated overheads around cost, and it’s not just reducing cost it more trying to optimize cost, so you can try free up some of the expenditure, to rather invest in things like expansion, customer experience, distribution footprint,etc.” she affirmed.

Acknowledging new trends including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Thing (IoT) among others that will have a profound impact on the fortunes of Africa communications technology, the Chief Executive Officer of AirtelTigo Ghana believes that with the advent of 4G LTE evolution technology; African countries are likely to scale up their economic development taking full advantage of the new trends these technologies offers.

Mrs Ng’ambi who is passionate to see everyone connected to the internet, is confident that ongoing discussions around getting everyone on the continent connected to the internet is a motivating factor to see Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s), Governments and Original Manufacturers (OAMS’s) combine forces to increase internet penetration on the Africa continent.

“So, you’ll see a whole lot more strategic ventures or collaborative efforts between MNO’s and OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers). You will see for instance AirtelTigo over the next couple of weeks announcing some of these partnerships. What some of these partnerships does is as supposed to only a device getting into the hands of Ghanaians it delivers also a connection through SIM, data offers, etc.” She added: “We see strengths of both roles coming into one and being able to deliver things like these into the hands of consumers and this I think is a trend you will see a whole lot more of in 2019,” she concluded.

She further mentioned a lot of collaborative efforts that is expected to take place within the telecom ecosystem among Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Policy Makers and Industry Regulators, as these players come to the understanding and realization that there is a direct correlation between internet penetration and internet usage to economic development.

 


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