The Nigerian telecommunications industry is facing a number of challenges, including loss of subscribers and competition from Over The Top players. There is a strong need to come up with innovative solutions for these problems.
We spoke to Christoph Fitih, Sales Director – Africa, Parallel Wireless to find out how Parallel Wireless is helping the service providers in the region to address the changing market requirements even as they maintain profitability.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
The Nigerian telecom market faces some very different problems like a drop in subscribers and increase in the usage of OTT services?
That’s very true. Service providers here have very different and unique problems. One of the major issues being faced is that of a drop in subscribers. Telcos have lost as many as 10 million subscribers in 2017 even as there are 40 million people yet to be connected in the country. Besides the subscribers are also moving away from traditional cellular services to data bundle packs, which allows them to use Over the Top (OTT) services. The OTT players deliver voice/video calls at a fraction of traditional voice call costs. Nigeria’s data bundle prices are one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Other challenges faced by the industry are low purchasing power of the consumers. The country’s weak macroeconomic conditions have also led to high unemployment leading to a reduced disposable income and poor corporate performance. All this doesn’t bode well for the industry.
The telcos then have little option but to come up with innovative strategies to bring down their operational expenditure to be in a position to offer services at reduced rates without affecting their profitability. Our solutions help the service providers in achieving exactly this.
How can your solutions help the service providers in meeting these challenges?
Parallel Wireless’s products are based on a unique approach of rethinking the way network is designed. We adopt a total solution based approach for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in the future, which helps us to empower telcos to better address the problems they are facing. We believe in thinking innovatively to come up easily deployable solutions to meet the challenges being faced by the telcos.
A case in point is our HetNet Gateway (HNG), an SDN and NFV-based network orchestrator, that enables telcos to easily scale their multi-vendor and multi-technology networks while allowing significant cost advantage at the same time. It delivers high capacity, high availability and high performance demanded by today’s networks and is also upgradeable to the upcoming 5G radio networks.
In the same vein, our Converged Wireless System (CWS) is a 3GPP-compliant, carrier-grade, multi-RAT node that is available in different form factors and delivers instant, reliable and cost-effective coverage. At the same time, it consumes very little power which helps with CAPEX reduction as it will require less solar panels. It will also reduce on-going OPEX as it won’t be needing as much power to provide the connectivity. Being very compact, CWS doesn’t require any cabinets or cooling, so as a result, it can be placed anywhere – on towers, side of building, anywhere that coverage needs to be brought to the end users.
How are your products different from those of other bigger and established players?
We, at Parallel Wireless, believe in adopting a radically different approach. Our products are much easier and simpler to deploy and significantly bring down the expense of network deployment and maintenance. In keeping with this our products usually have small form factor and try to maximize the use of available resources. We extensively use automation and software as much as possible to ensure simplification and ease of deployment of our products.
Which Nigerian telcos are you working with or are engaged with in Nigeria? How much does Africa contribute to your revenue?
Parallel Wireless has active deployments in Ghana, DRC, Senegal, South Africa, Gambia, Nigeria and Tunisia in Africa. We hope to make some of these engagements public soon. We also have a sales office in Ghana.
Africa is a significant market for us, and we firmly believe our products and solutions are ideally suited to enable service providers to provide services at affordable rates to their subscribers, while at the same time ensuring profitability for themselves.
What are your future plans for the Nigerian and African market? Any planned investments in the region?
We plan to increase our engagement with the service providers in Nigeria and other African markets. We regularly explore various options to expand our business here. We are in very active discussions with MNOs in Nigeria at the moment and are working hard to enable coverage for the end users in Nigeria at a cost that makes sense for the MNOs.
What can the telcos do to prepare the networks/infrastructure for 5G and Internet of things? By when do you think 5G will be launched in Nigeria and Africa?
The service providers would need to make many changes in their networks to help them in meeting the challenges of the 5G technology. The traditional networks are incapable of meeting the requirements of an always-connected world. The service providers would need to add agility, flexibility, and scalability to their networks to address the demands of the ubiquitous coverage and low latency required by 5G technology.
Even as 5G technology starts to make its presence felt in different parts of the world, we believe that older technologies like 2G will continue to be relevant for a long period. At the same time, 2G in its original form will not be able to meet the current requirements of the network, but if it uses latest technology concepts like virtualization, it will allow service providers to bring down the tariff. Virtualization also allows smooth migration to 4G whenever the market is ready for it.
The standardization body, 3GPP has recently released the first set of standards, and the first commercial 5G is likely to be launched as early as 2019. However, initially, it will be launched only in some pockets before it is expanded to other areas. Nigeria and other parts of Africa are likely to experience 5G only by 2022.