Interview: Azouaou Mehmel
What are the key trends in the evolution of revenue streams and product offerings?
AZOUAOU MEHMEL: Algerian users are becoming increasingly accustomed to technology and thus are becoming more and more demanding with respect to services. There is a clear role for the internet in the education and health sectors, which stand to benefit from improved connections and access to more diverse content. In this vein, Algérie Télécom launched an online library in 2014 that includes academic books, novels and Arabic books. Our hope is eventually to add the entire content of the Algerian national library system to this service. Further development of multimedia online content will likewise be key, and we are also working on a video-on-demand offering, which we plan to launch in the near future.
Which goals and challenges are most important in the development of infrastructure?
MEHMEL: One of Algérie Télécom’s chief strategic goals is the modernisation and extension of its telecoms infrastructure, especially by developing the fibre-optic transmission network to replace copper cables. The company is currently in a phase of trying to reach the end user, a period requiring large investments of time and money. The first fibre-optic networks began in the late 1980s, and our current network includes more than 64,000 km of fibre-optic cables. We are now entering a more advanced stage of FTTX architecture where we want to reach the end user by means of fibre-to-the-home, or FTTH. To achieve this, Algeria hopes to install 10,000-15,000 km of fibre-optic cables a year.
What are the most recent developments with regards to fixed telecoms services?
MEHMEL: Today the technologies used in telecoms infrastructure are much more compact and much more complex. In the past there were miles and miles of copper cabling. What we are now moving towards is increased usage of multi-service access nodes that connect customers’ telephone lines to a single platform for providing telecoms and internet services. This involves replacing older units that are nearing obsolescence, and rolling out new units and technologies to bring all of our customers up to the same level of service. All of the obsolete equipment should be replaced by the end of 2016.
Former portions of the telecoms network that are in copper are not suitable for users who are moving towards more internet usage and less voice usage. Internet speeds were previously available at speeds from 128 KB per second, but now users have access to speeds up to more than 8 MB per second, which exceeds the capacity of the copper-based network. For this reason, Algérie Télécom is focused on the fibre-optic and copper combination for wired technologies, while for wireless we are focusing on 4G, LTE and Wi-Fi. The current wireless core network (CDMA) infrastructure will be replaced by 4G technology, which will boost connection speeds even further.
How is growth in mobile services affecting the provision of fixed-line offerings?
MEHMEL: When 3G mobile was being rolled out in Algeria, many people predicted the end of fixed-line services. However, growth in one service is not necessarily to the detriment of another – for instance, a mobile plan is sufficient for basic content, but for watching a film with online live streaming it is better to have a high-bandwidth home connection with a larger data package. Algeria is currently making huge investments to reach its customers nationwide, and the quality of product offerings is continually improving in terms of internet speed and data packages. Nevertheless, customers always want to see the price going down, whereas on the operator’s side, the costs of making these improvements are always going up.
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