MTN Ghana CEO, Michael Ikpoki has predicted an explosion in data consumption beginning from this year, and resultant significant economic returns for the country as a whole.
Other industry players made similar predictions in part earlier this year, and Michael Ikpoki told Adom News that was a clear sign that industry players know what’s up, and are preparing not only to get the fair share of the boom, but also to use data to trigger economic growth.
He said in the market like Ghana, where there is 80% mobile penetration and huge amount of multi-simming, the voice aspect of the business starts to slow and that reduces voice revenue for operators so the obvious alternative is data.
“But it is important to point out that data is not just an alternative source of revenue for telcos because it has very important economic implications for the country,” he said.
Mr. Ikpoki explained that Ghana was at an interesting phase of economic growth in terms of investments into the country, and the growth of different industries, which would increase the demand for data.
He noted, for instance, that telecoms has become a tool, not just for voice service but also for supporting the growth of other key industries like mining, oil and gas and other strategic sectors of the economy.
Indeed, the Ghana Statistical Service reported in 2010 that the service sector was the biggest driver of economic growth and the telecom sector alone was the biggest driver of the service sector itself.
Mr. Ikpoki said the expected growth in data consumption has, to a large extent, started with the large-scale industries, but would gradually trickle down to the small and medium scale enterprises because those enterprises would need data consuming systems in order to participate fully in, and maximize their benefits from the expected economic growth.
He said it was therefore very strategic for MTN, for instance, to have landed the 14,500KM WACS (West African Communications System) submarine fibre cable in Ghana at such a time as this.
“We would be deploying the 5.2 terabit WACS to augment the capacity of our three switch/data centres to improve the data quality and experience of our customers, particularly those in the high uptake areas,” he said.
MTN invested some $90 million into the $650 million WACS, which stretches from South Africa to Europe – terminating in London, with landing stations in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Congo, and 11 other countries along the Western and Southern coasts of Africa.
The WACS cable along the caost of Africa, and like others such as Glo One and Main One, is expected to raise the level of internet and broadband availability in Africa, boost Africa’s efforts at bridging the digital divide, and also reinforce Africa’s position as a major player in the digital age.
But some African telecom operators and regulators recently expressed concern over how much fibre capacity would be consumed in Africa, given the high level of illiteracy and the rampant power fluctuations on the continent.
Mr. Ikpoki, however, said last year MTN launched MTN Business, and the focus was to develop customized solutions for both SMEs and large-scale businesses to help them have more efficient practices and grow their businesses better, adding that data would be key in that regard.
“We will develop websites for small businesses (because) research has shown we can help them in that direction – we have a product that helps small business to subscribe to those services, and we have a huge data centre with the capacity to support such set ups,” he said.
He said MTN was currently on a listening campaign, to know from the various businesses what their specific needs are so MTN could customize solutions to meet their needs and ensure that they participated fully in the data boom.
At the individual level, MTN has just recently launched the Vehicle Tracking Service, where users would acquire a SIM-based tracking device from MTN through which they could track the location of their vehicle when they are away from the vehicle; when someone tampers with; and even trace it when it is stolen.
Mr. Ikpoki said the launch of MTN data bundles last year, and the celebration of Internet Festival (I-FEST) month in September last year among other things, were just the beginnings of MTN’s focus on data, and the company made significant inroads towards establishing itself as a data brand.
“Currently we have the best 3G coverage – fastest on the market (comparable to Expresso’s CLIQ) three high capacity data centres and we are preparing to go live with our WACS fibre cable in April/May this year to stamp our position as market leaders in data service as well,”