'ICT's future in governments' hands'
'ICT's future in governments' hands'
Next year will be the year where sound ICT plans need to be developed to attract and guide investors and other industry stakeholders, and the need to extend connectivity to less densely populated areas remains a challenge as Africa's communications services market approaches maturity.
This is according to Frost & Sullivan's ICT team who have drawn up an overview of key trends the company believes will feature prominently in 2017, and help shape the broader ICT sector.
Naila Govan-Vassen, Senior Industry Analyst – Africa ICT, says government involvement is critical to the success or failure of ICT infrastructure deployment.
"Mobile Internet is relatively expensive for the majority of citizens on the African continent; even higher LSM subscribers only use mobile Internet when not connected to fixed wireless. So how can a citizen in the lower LSM afford mobile Internet connectivity plus monthly data and a smartphone?
The pressure is on for government, as it needs to have a clear vision and understanding on how ICT can benefit its citizens, the country and the economy. Government needs a realistic road map on how ICT infrastructure needs to be deployed. And there is also a clear need for government to collaborate with the experts on the industry - from the regulators to MNOs and OEMs," says Govan-Vassen.
The global research firm adds that the focus on broadband and spectrum allocation will continue, with the release of spectrum, re-farming of existing spectrum, Public Private Partnerships, power supply and the creation of internet demand all coming to the fore.
MNOs vs OTT
Among other influential developments within the ICT space, Frost & Sullivan analysts have also mentioned that mobile network operators will turn to WiFi and LTE networks to fight off the threat posed by Over-the-Top (OTT) applications.
"Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) are becoming accepted as the next generation of mobile communications services. The packet-based solutions are an improvement on the circuit-switched predecessors - in terms of quality, functionality and cost. These technologies will offer high definition voice services, faster call connection and a seamless switchover from voice to video," says Lehlohonolo Mokenela, Industry Analyst – Africa.
"There is growing evidence that South African operators are building their mobile communication strategies around the technologies, with Cell C and Vodacom launching VoWiFi services in 2015. In 2017, the market is expected to witness a lot more focus on VoLTE and VoWiFi by local operators; however, the release of spectrum is central to the development of VoLTE services. Given the sensitivity of subscribers to the quality of voice services, operators will be best placed testing the stability of their VoWiFi and VoLTE offerings," Mokenela adds.
The company also expects MNOs to focus on optimising data-based revenue streams by promoting bandwidth intensive functions.
Deepti Dhinakaran, Research Analyst – ICT Africa, says Africa will take the lead in the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2017.
"The technology will not only disrupt but also serve as a key driver to the growth and development of the African ICT market. 2017 will see a large number of the IoT applications that currently run on 2G networks, shift to 3G networks. The adoption of LPWAN connectivity technologies will grow significantly, driven by the need for increased speed, longer range, and higher power efficiencies. IoT providers across verticals will leverage their in-house and acquired capabilities to benefit from the platform and software application services segments, given their higher value potential. International providers will increasingly follow an indirect business model in countries like Kenya and Nigeria as this ensures cost-effective operations and the sharing of risk with local providers, owing to the importance of local partnerships in these IoT markets," says Dhinakaran.
Frost & Sullivan predicts that next year the market will focus on core Blockchain and Blockchain-like technologies, rather than on their applications to crypto-currencies.
George Etheredge: Research Analyst – ICT Africa says, "In 2017, firms will explore other applications where the verification of digital assets is required. An example here is in anti-piracy where the authenticity of media files could be verified using Blockchain-like technologies. Similarly, Blockchain is expected to be used to develop 'smart' contracts, automatically verified by virtue of the Blockchain."
According to Frost & Sullivan, while African operators often enjoy the benefits of watching market developments unfold elsewhere in the world before having to decide on their own approach, the ability of certain industries to leapfrog particular technological developments places local telecommunication providers in an unprecedented position.
"It is ultimately up to them to decide how they will move forward in this dynamic landscape," says Hendrik Malan, Operations Director, Frost & Sullivan Africa.