MTN’s big drive into digital services

Mobile operators around the world are facing challenges with declining voice revenues and the threat of over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp.

The rapid growth in mobile data demand, which is fuelled by the higher number of smartphones, further requires operators to invest large amounts of money to increase network capacity.

South African operators face challenges when it comes to network capacity, because of a shortage of LTE spectrum.

The government’s plan to use all unassigned spectrum for a single LTE network, and potentially take back Vodacom and MTN’s existing spectrum, is also of concern to the industry.

MyBroadband asked MTN South Africa CEO Mteto Nyati for his views on these and other matters related to the local telecoms market.

What do you think are the most pressing issues which the government should address to improve broadband access in South Africa?

The government must create a workable framework for public-private partnerships to encourage investment.

The government should remove import duties on smartphones and tablets to improve their affordability.

They must carry out a socio-economic impact assessment of the new ICT policy before taking it to parliament for legislation.

Are you concerned about the potential decline in voice revenues in the mobile market?

We are concerned about the decline in voice revenues, hence our priority is to build new revenue sources in the digital and enterprise spaces.

Falling voice revenues are not unique to MTN and is a phenomenon that affects all operators.

How much of a threat are OTT services like WhatsApp to mobile operators?

OTT services that are substitutes to our products – voice and SMS – are naturally a threat to our business. We also see them as partners as their services drive data consumption.

What are you the proudest of regarding the achievements of MTN since you took over?

At the beginning of the year, we set out to transform customer experience, i.e. quality of the network, improve service in our retail stores, reduce turnaround times in our call centres, and increase first-call resolution.

We have made significant improvements in all of these areas. We are now gaining customers in our target segments – an important measure of customer satisfaction. We have a number of customer service initiatives that are in the pipeline, we can’t wait to deliver them to our customers.

Where do you think MTN could have done better over the last few years?

Over the last few years, we could have listened more to our customers and transformed our business to delight them. Most of our customer experience initiatives are informed by the feedback we have received from our customers. We have now made it our priority to listen, even if the message hurts.

Which areas are you focussed on for future growth at MTN?

We have recently appointed Maxwell Nonge as our chief digital officer. He is leading our efforts in developing digital offerings for both consumer and enterprise customers.

The work that he is doing will help differentiate MTN in the market. He is working closely with colleagues from the Network Group, IT and forging strategic partnerships in specific industry verticals.

What keeps you awake at night regarding the local tech and telecoms industry?

The new ICT policy, in its current form, has the potential to negatively impact the industry. The good thing is that in South Africa, we always find each other. I have no doubt we will protect what we have as we build what is new.

Now read: What Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom say about the ICT Policy White Paper

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MTN’s big drive into digital services