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Telkom Mobile doubles users

Telkom has increased revenues and dividends as its Mobile division finally gains serious traction, while ADSL’s collapse continues

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South Africa’s monopoly fixed-line operator, Telkom, startled the market this week with news that its mobile division had almost doubled its subscriber base, by 85.9%, to 9.7-million. With the fixed line subscriber base declining every year for the past 18 years, Telkom had pinned its hopes on significant uptake of the mobile service in a highly competitive environment. 

For the year ended 31 March 2019, overall growth for the organisation was muted, with a 5.3% increase in group operating revenue to R41.8-billion. Mobile services revenue, however, increase by 58.3%, underpinned by the group’s broadband-led proposition, according to a statement from Telkom. 

“This is on the back of increased competition and the fact that technology changes continue to place the fixed business under pressure,” it said. “The results offer proof that the group’s strategy of investing in new technologies continues to bear fruit.”

EBITDA increased by 8.5% to R11.3 billion, which can be attributed to our ongoing sustainable cost management. The group EBITDA growth is faster than the revenue growth of 5.3%. The EBITDA margin expanded by 0.8% to 27.1%.

“In line with global trends, our fixed business remains under pressure,” said Sipho Maseko, Telkom Group CEO. “With that in mind, investing in technologies to drive future revenue streams necessitates the evolution of the group’s skill base and acquiring various capabilities. Our human capital investment focuses on creating efficiency and effectiveness in the context of growing the business, achieving operational excellence, retaining key skills and ensuring our future competitiveness.”

Despite adding 4.5 million subscribers, Telkom’s blended average revenue per user was stable at R100. Mobile revenue contribution increasing from 3.2% to 25.7%, while information technology revenue grew from 0.9% to 16.2%. 

Telkom said it continues to invest in the fibre ecosystem, which is sustaining fixed data revenue.

Regarding other business segments, it said in its statement: “Gyro’s revenue increased by 24.%, underpinned by the group’s strategy to separate the property portfolio to improve management focus and unlock value for the group. Further to this, the dedication and focus on the mast and tower as well as the property portfolio has enabled the business to service clients more effectively and will enhance competitiveness as the largest independent tower company in South Africa. Telkom will continue to explore and deploy the latest technology to reduce development cost and maximise development yield while offering competitive rental levels to clients.” 

Performance of its BCX subsidiary remains “dampened”. It said BCX’s revenue “significantly improved from a R1 billion revenue decline in the prior year to a revenue decline of R683 million”. This is attributed to several initiatives to stabilise the business, including a change in operating model and the enhanced strategy to focus on customer retention.

It said the pricing transformation journey that Openserve embarked on two years ago was starting to show positive signs and revenue was resilient despite customers migrating to next-generation technologies at lower price points. Translated, this indicates that the decline of ADSL has slowed down due to improved pricing, despite ongoing migration to fibre.

The numbers, however, tell a different story. Telkom reported that its ADSL, VDSL, and fibre subscribers combined declined by 13.6%, from 981,176 in March 2018 to 847,650 in March 2019. Assuming that fibre installations have been increasing, this suggests a continued collapse of the ADSL subscriber base.

“Despite price reductions over the past two years, ongoing voice revenue pressure and a change in the revenue mix, Openserve contained the revenue decline at 3.3% and EBITDA grew by 3.4 points to 37.1%,” Telkom said. “This was enabled by, among others, our strategy to modernise the network to improve cost to connect and cost to serve.”

During the period, Telkom made a capital investment of R7.7 billion, with a capital expenditure to revenue ratio of 18.4%. 

“The ongoing investment enabled Telkom to grow new revenue in evolving technology, offsetting the traditional revenue shrinkage. Telkom will continue to proactively invest in technologies and the network so that the group remains at the forefront of change.”

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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