Alcatel-Lucent’s rapid growth in Africa

By Tom Jackson, South Africa

Alcatel-Lucent is growing faster in Africa than on a global level as it continues to announce new deployments on the continent, according to vice president (VP) for Africa Daniel Jaeger.

Jaeger told BizTechAfrica that though he could not reveal exact figures, Africa was the company’s fastest growing region by some way.

“Our growth in Africa is substantially bigger right now than on a global level,” he said.

The company has announced a number of new deployments in Africa recently, notably launching a superfast, 100 gigabit-per-second fibre-optic network in Nigeria with MTN, providing the Senegalese Ministry of Health and its partners with the MNC technological platform mBox as part of the m-Diabetes initiative, and partnering with Somtel Telecommunications to deploy an LTE network in Somalia.

Jaeger said there has been an increase in the number of deployments Alcatel-Lucent has had in Africa in the last year, particularly in what he calls the “Ultra-Broadband” domain, which covers both fixed and wireless broadband.

 “There are many interesting projects going on, which also involves many new operators coming on to the scene,” he said. “For example in LTE we have seen a serious number of new operators, which have discovered the market niche of providing broadband access via LTE, mostly in areas where no strong fixed broadband exists.”

With so many new players in the African LTE sector, Jaeger said he could not rule out acquisitions and consolidation in the future, though for now this “might be a bit early”, as many of these new operators have just launched or are about to launch.

 “A lot will also depend on the spectrum policies of the various regulators - where spectrum stays limited, the value of those with spectrum will increase.”

Jaeger said in some African countries there had been some progress in addressing the lack of available spectrum, but in others little had been done.

 “Generally, the two areas to look at are firstly the TV migration, which will free up the “digital dividend” spectrum; secondly, regulators take different approaches in terms of making that spectrum available. For example, some have decided to give LTE spectrum only to new entrants, also as a way to enable or stimulate competition,” he said.

He said though Africa skipping straight from 2G internet to 4G had been much debated, there has been little evidence of that thus far.

“I believe that most (if not all) countries will have 3G, but definitely 3G and 4G have already started to co-exist. With some of the business models they also target different market segments, with 3G being more used for mobility, while 4G (at this early stage in Africa) in most of the countries where it is being deployed is very much directed towards fixed wireless broadband. But, no doubt, these market segments and technologies will converge over time.”

He said the objective of deploying the mBox solution in Senegal was to support the population in Senegal, in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“We consider it part of our role as a key player in the region to involve ourselves in such a project to the benefit of the population,” Jaeger said. “Diabetes is a severe disease impacting many people in Africa, which can be fought by better information, awareness, prevention, diagnosis, treatment as well as the training of health workers. This platform is also part of Alcatel-Lucent’s solution for e-government which is about to be deployed in other countries in the region, and which has already been deployed in Europe.”

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