Interview: Joseph Ged
How do you expect the mobile telecoms sector to develop over the next few years?
JOSEPH GED: The mobile telecoms sector has posted solid growth in Algeria over the past few years: 8.65% in 2011, 5.37% in 2012 and 5.3% in 2013. This trend is reflected primarily in the rise of the penetration rate, which passed 100% in 2013 thanks to a proliferation of offers, solutions and services. In fact, this rate rose from 99.28% in 2012 to 102.11% in 2013. In total, the three operators had 39.52m subscribers at the end of 2013, compared to 37.53m a year earlier. As for growth prospects, the roll-out of 3G should serve as a catalyst for growth as it enables the take-off of data revenues. Generally speaking, the Algerian mobile industry is set to continue growing through the dissemination of new technologies in the next few years.
Additionally, the mobile telecoms market in Algeria is considerably dominated by the prepaid segment, which accounts for more than 90% of the consumer base. In order to re-balance the market structure, operators have strived to re-orient their marketing strategies by launching a vast array of post-paid contracts offering numerous benefits – free communication, bonus credits and free data credits. Moreover, mobile operators have reinforced their communications geared towards retail and corporate clients in order to boost post-paid product visibility.
What strategies could be rolled out to optimise the profitability of 3G roaming?
GED: Mobile operators were awarded 3G spectrum licences at the end of 2013, since which their main strategy has been to improve their 3G networks throughout the country, raise average revenue per user and invest in mobile data services. The creation of domestic roaming and the portability of phone numbers have long been priorities for operators, especially as the 3G territorial coverage currently includes a handful of regions with some exclusivities for each operator. Domestic roaming will thus enable clients of the three operators to benefit from 3G services in regions and wilayas (provinces) where their initial operator is not present, which is very positive for the end-user. The 3G licences stipulate that this service must be included after operators’ obligations of providing coverage are finalised.
What strategies can be implemented to improve the accessibility of smartphones?
GED: Operators have been encouraging the creation of “Made in Algeria” content in a bid to provide a quality user experience. For instance, Ooredoo has launched an in-house content platform as well as programmes geared towards young Algerian app developers in partnership with the National Agency for SME Promotion. In addition, each operator has also developed cloud computing services to reach out to corporate clients. In doing so, operators enable the creation of an ecosystem and a content industry based on local intelligence and competence. They have to constantly improve their existing programmes and develop new ones geared towards the development of mobile content. At the same time, they need to further improve the accessibility of mobile terminals among clients. This will help drive 3G penetration and data consumption.
How feasible is the development of a 4G network in the short to medium term?
GED: For three years, there has been a technological debate in Algeria on whether to introduce 3G services or skip directly to 4G. Since the beginning, we were in favour of 3G, as the equipment that is needed for this technology is more price accessible. Algeria is now in its first year of having 3G technology, and operators are currently focusing their efforts on the reinforcement and extension of the 3G network into new areas. For example, Ooredoo Algeria’s network has a capacity of 63 Mbps reaching throughout the country. As for the prospect of 4G, launching this service will depend on the Algerian authorities, as operators already have the technical, human and material means to do so.
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