In this day and age, it is no secret that data rules the world, but data is only as powerful as the insights and analytics you can pull from it and how this information is utilised. This is especially the case for MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) across Africa, an MNO is a traditional mobile operator who owns and operates their own network. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the telecommunications industry across the region, with more and more people across the continent relying on data, connectivity and mobile services to live, work and survive.
This has created a unique opportunity for MNOs to answer to the unique needs of this dynamic and changing market. We examine the new insights and trends driving this market and how data analysis is impacting this below.
Understanding Data Analysis
To understand the role that data analysis plays in driving the MNO market across Sub-Saharan Africa, you first need to understand the data analyses process. In simple terms, data analytics refers to the science of analysing raw data to extract and provide actionable insights, graphs, statistics, patterns, predictions, future outcomes and conclusions about that information.
During this process, data analysts utilise a number of different automated techniques and data analysis methods, such as mechanical processes, content analysis, data mining, factor analysis, statistical analysis, forecasting, algorithms, text analysis, time series analysis and more, to take raw collected data from the data sets and make it understandable within the given context.
In the context of MNOs and telecommunications, insights provided by data analytics and the analysis processes can help optimise performance, efficiency, and ultimately profitability. They say knowledge is power, and that is exactly what data analytics offers.
There are various types of data analysis which utilise several different data analysis techniques as well as data analysis tools. These include:
- Descriptive analysis – descriptive analytics helps data scientists answer the question “what happened?”. This technique helps summarise large datasets to describe outcomes to stakeholders. This is governed by key performance indicators (KPIs) and can help track successes or failures. This process utilises artificial intelligence for the collection of relevant data, the processing of this data, data analysis and data visualisation.
- Diagnostic analysis – this technique helps answer the question “why has this happened?”. Diagnostic analytics takes the findings from descriptive analytics and investigates them to identify anomalies within the data, information related to these anomalies, as well as the relationships and trends that explain these anomalies.
- Predictive analysis – answers the question, “what will happen in the future?”. Predictive analysis is a business intelligence tool that utilises machine learning techniques to compare historical data in order to identify trends and determine if they are likely to recur. These predictive analytics provide valuable insight into what may happen in the future, allowing for effective decision-making and planning the best course of action.
- Prescriptive Analysis – helps answer questions about what should be done. Prescriptive analytics techniques utilise machine learning strategies to find patterns in large data sets. By analysing historical decisions and events, you can create different outcomes.
As an MNO, being able to efficiently analyse large amounts of data related to your organisation allows you to identify patterns, trends, customer segments, opportunities, and issues that can be affecting your business. This assists with decision-making and gives you the insight needed to make changes to your business model that will ultimately promote growth and success.
Data analytics plays a central role in assisting MNOs to develop new business models that allow them to stay ahead of the competition and retain customers within the African market. The insight provided by the data analytics process enables MNOs to offer a differentiated value proposition to their customer base based on personalised offerings. Data analytics provide MNOs with:
- Accurate and complete information related to revenue monitoring and reporting, interconnecting traffic between networks, churn tracking, KPI performance, and customer and market segmentation.
- Advanced Analytics data models capture and audit raw information to ensure the accuracy of insights.
- Provides insight into what services and offerings customers are looking for, patterns of consumption, churn tracking, customer behaviour, market segmentation, and more.
MNOs can utilise these accurate and valuable insights to identify opportunities to improve their current services and offerings, develop relevant and targeted marketing campaigns, services, and offerings that add value to their customer base and make better business decisions that will boost revenue and profitability.
MNO Landscape in Africa
Several different elements are driving MNO penetration across Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the contributing factors is the significant increase in the adoption and use of mobile services in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has particularly seen an uptake in mobile data use, mobile money, and the utilisation of mobile technology and platforms.
According to GMSA’s Sub Saharan Mobile Economy Report for 2021, it is estimated that there will be 120 million new subscribers by 2025, taking the total number of subscribers across the region to 615 million (50% of the region’s population). The number of unique mobile subscribers is also set to increase from 495 million in 2020 to 615 million in 2025. This is at a CAGR value of 4.4%.
Similarly, the number of mobile internet users is set to increase from 303 million in 2020 to 474 million in 2025, which will be a penetration rate of 39% of the population compared to 20% in 2020. Operator revenues and investment mirror this growth, with total revenue expected to increase from $44.2 billion to $56.2billion between 2020 and 2025.
The above statistics confirm the immense growth potential for MNOs to tap into, but for this to be successful, they need to ensure they are answering the needs of the customers within this market. The key to this is understanding and utilising big data and tapping into the different trends identified by this data.
3 Current Trends Driving MNO Market Share Across Africa
As mentioned above, the African market is growing, especially where mobile and smartphone adoption is concerned. This has led to several different insights and trends being identified by GSMA, by utilising data analytics. These trends and insights offer MNOs an opportunity to tap into these market trends, grow their market share, and enhance their overall competitiveness within the region. These trends and insights include:
Increased demand for connectivity
With the increase in mobile service adoption and smartphone reach across the region, there is an increased need for connectivity. Many have said that this is the perfect opportunity for 5G deployment, and in the future, this may be the case but the region is not yet ready for this just yet. You may be asking why and the simple answer is that there are different markets at different telecommunication stages within this diverse region.
Although globally 5G is a focus for many countries, 5G rollout and deployment is set to be a lot slower on the African continent. The focus within this region is to maximise the existing 4G capability, which still has not yet reached half of the region’s population. Another issue with 5G preparations within this market is the large capital investment needed and operation complexities, which many of these markets cannot overcome at this point in time. The need for enhanced connectivity across the 4G network offers an exciting opportunity for MNOs to tap into this need.
Open RAN gains ground
As mentioned above, the capital expense of deploying and operating networks, specifically in rural areas across Sub-Saharan Africa, poses a significant challenge for MNOs. This is clear when understanding that three in five people within the region live in rural areas where traditional network deployments are not always possible. MNOs within this region are looking at new and different ways to quickly deploy networks and services and Open Ran technology is one of the options being investigated.
Open Ran is a term used for industry-wide standards for RAN (Radio Access Network) interfaces that support interoperation between vendors’ equipment and offers network flexibility at a lower cost. Although this is still in the trial phase, it is being led by some of the biggest mobile industry players, including MTN, Orange, and Vodacom
Consumers move to digital
MNOs are set to play a more significant role in Sub-Saharan Africa digital platforms, especially where connectivity and access to digital services are concerned. The pandemic has caused a shift in consumer behaviour and a move towards digital. This has led to several digital platforms being developed and business models changing. Customers are now relying more on these platforms to work, learn, shop, and access services, so much so that there are now over 1200 digital platforms across Africa.
Digital platforms specifically related to financial services and the healthcare sector have grown exponentially within this market. With more of these platforms being utilised and developed, there is a growing need for reliable network connectivity and access that MNOs could provide with tailored services and offerings to answer these unique needs while bringing in new revenue streams.
Data analytics are providing MNOs and industries with the insight and knowledge needed to grow the telecommunication industry within the African market. The three trends mentioned above are set to create a shift in the industry as we know it and MNOs have a large role to play here. The future in this market is bright, but it requires MNOs to think outside of the box, utilise the data at hand, and develop services and offerings that speak to this market’s unique needs.
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Steven Sutherland experienced Adapt IT Divisional Executive, dynamic business leader for their Telecoms Division with a demonstrated 25-year history in the telecommunications and IoT sectors. Strong global marketing, sales, and business development professional with 15 plus years focused experience in the Southern and Rest-of-Africa markets and a unique blend of entrepreneurial spirit combined with a passion for both technology and business.
At Adapt IT Steven is responsible for building and growing the Telecoms Division on top of its industry-proven software competencies including but not limited to Customer Experience and Self Service, NextGen VAS, IoT, FINTECH, and Advanced Analytics and always looking forward to an opportunity to demonstrate the value that their 20 plus years of experience in these disciplines can bring to your business