SEACOM has entered the African enterprise market with connectivity and Cloud services that bring business customers high bandwidth at competitive prices. The launch offerings include Fibre Internet Access with options ranging from 25Mbps up to 1Gbps.
Since a soft launch of its enterprise offering a year ago, the SEACOM Business division is signing up around 20 corporate and SME customers a month and has appointed 20 business partners to support its drive into a new market. The company also launched its Fibre Internet Access service in January 2015.
Unleashing the value of SEACOM for enterprise customers
Byron Clatterbuck, SEACOM’s CEO, says that this is the beginning of SEACOM’s plan to transform Africa’s business connectivity landscape: “In the past, SEACOM focused on bringing low-cost data transmission infrastructure to other service providers in Africa. However, we were not seeing the optimal take-up of our international capabilities in the marketplace and the benefits that this can bring.”
“We have the network, the skills and the capabilities to unleash the value of our international network directly to corporate users, and see huge benefit for businesses in doing so. We are pleased that the market agrees with us. Our challenge now is to deliver on customer orders and let people experience our incredible service.”
Grant Parker, Head of SEACOM Business, says that SEACOM aims to shake up the enterprise connectivity space by offering businesses high-speed connectivity and quality bandwidth at an affordable cost. The company is leveraging its abundant and scalable capacity on its undersea cable system and continent-wide IP-MPLS network as well as the capabilities of its Cloud services to enable businesses in South Africa and East Africa to smoothly transition to the Cloud.
Last-mile access that connects right into the SEACOM infrastructure
SEACOM launched the first broadband submarine cable system along the East African coastline linking South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique with major Internet connection hubs in Europe and Asia. Today, it offers a redundant connectivity ring around Africa’s east and west coasts, optimal traffic routing, and resiliency through multiple tier-1 upstream partners in Europe and Asia. It also offers direct connectivity to African routes and content.
SEACOM now delivers these services over last-mile access through leading connectivity partnerships in various regions.
Last-mile fibre is a major focus for SEACOM in the corporate market. Initially, the company aims to bring standard fibre to corporate customers in Kenya and South Africa. It has already launched 20 fibre precincts in South Africa and plans to roll out another 40 by the end of the year.
Parker, an industry veteran who has worked for the likes of Internet Solutions and Dimension Data, is leading the SEACOM enterprise push. “SEACOM started out as a wholesale provider of international bandwidth, but the time is right for us to diversify our business into the enterprise market with a set of focused offerings including last-mile fibre and private networks,” says Parker.
A lean and focused approach
Says Parker: “We will address some top-tier clients through a direct sales strategy, but our intention is to address most of the business market in partnership with leading service providers. Our operation will be lean and focused. There is a real hunger in the market for affordable, high quality fibre connectivity as well as for private and outsourced network solutions, and we’re well positioned to service this market with the assets we own and manage.”
SEACOM’s business offering includes the following:
· Internet Access provides customers with high-speed access to the Internet through multiple global tier 1 providers, a mesh of subsea and terrestrial routes as well as optimised routing to many key African operators, service providers and content delivery networks.
· Ethernet services offer dedicated, transparent, EoMPLS layer-2 virtual private networking (VPN) connectivity across SEACOM’s network and onwards through our international partner networks.
· Private Line Services give clients secure, dedicated, low-latency connectivity across multiple cable systems connecting Africa, Europe and Asia, as well as national to key interconnection points in Africa.
· Cloud services – Hosted mail, online backup, end-point protection, virtual hosting and other Cloud services provide customers with the ability to leverage the Cloud to improve business processes and reduce costs.
“Our first customers are pleased with the offerings we have brought to market, and we are getting many new business referrals from them,” says Parker. “We’re aiming to offer the South African corporate and SME markets a killer experience at the right cost, and in so doing, transform the market as we did when we launched our submarine cable system six years ago.”
Africa phones go flat
Africa’s mobile phone market declined 2.1% quarter on quarter in Q3 2018 according to the latest figures from IDC.
The global technology research and consulting firm newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows overall shipments for the quarter totalled 52.6 million units, with feature phone shipments falling 2.7% QoQ and smartphone shipments declining 1.3% over the same period.
Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Itel) led the feature phone space in Q3 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.2%. Nokia was next in line with 11.7% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.9%, 21.7%, and 10.2%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone market with 37.2% share, followed by Transsion (21.0%) and Huawei (13.0%).
There were differing fortunes in the region’s three major markets, with Nigeria suffering a heavy 11.6% QoQ decline in mobile phone shipments, while South Africa and Kenya saw respective QoQ growth of 8.5% and 7.9% in Q3 2018.
“The decline in Nigeria stemmed from a slowdown in government spending, ongoing warfare in the country’s northern states, and market uncertainty in the lead up to elections,” says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. “In South Africa, the market’s growth was spurred by the penetration of low-end devices from brands such as Mobicel, Mint, and Nokia, while the launch of entry-level smartphones helped drive growth in Kenya despite increases in taxes and fuel prices placing a significant burden on disposable income in the country.”
While feature phones remain steadfastly popular across Africa, particularly in more rural areas, consumers are increasingly being attracted by smartphone offerings from Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei, which are actively targeting feature-oriented customers at more economical price points.
“There is a new wave of Chinese brands aggressively pursuing growth opportunities in the region, while the more-established Huawei is also accelerating its marketing efforts and expanding its distribution budget,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “These brands have quickly progressed along the learning curve and evolved their offerings to perfectly reflect the realities of the region by addressing the diverse pricing and feature needs of the consumer base.”
Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to reach 58 million units in Q4 2018, spurred by the festive season and online consumer events such as Black Friday. The introduction of more affordable smartphones in the African market will help drive progress in this space over the coming quarters, while the share of feature phones will decline steadily as the transition to smartphones gathers momentum.
Mobile money to cross borders
Orange and MTN launch pan-African mobile money interoperability to scale up mobile financial services across Africa.
Two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group, today announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost.
Mowali will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets. Mowali is ready to enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.
Mowali is a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.
The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants. Mowali enables money to circulate freely between mobile money accounts from any operators in all countries. From the customer’s point of view, this means “I can pay or receive money anywhere from my mobile account regardless of my operator”. The system will unlock further innovation in the digital financial space within the continent.
For Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, “by providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa. Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange’s ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services. “
“One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial services in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective. Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is therefore an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond. Thus giving our customers access to a bright, digital future.” said Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN.
The GSMA supports the Mowali initiative as interoperability at this scale is a key accelerator for both financial inclusion and Mobile Money usability across Africa. “Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities. The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region. It demonstrates the mobile industry’s continued leadership and commitment to driving financial inclusion and economic empowerment through industry collaboration. The GSMA is proud to support its development,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.
“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome, in support of financial inclusion. With Mowali, Orange and MTN deliver a solution that will enable them, and other companies, to scale digital financial services across Africa, faster, to everyone—including the poor,” said Kosta Peric, deputy director of Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming. We’re pleased to see an implementation of Mojaloop—an open source payment platform available to operators across the sector—help achieve that.”