Rakuten Symphony chief revenue officer Rabih Dabboussi urged African operators to build their networks with new services in mind and pivot away from margin shrinking traditional telecoms products.
Speaking to Developing Telecoms, Dabboussi said operators from Africa are in prime positions as they follow western counterparts in modernising 4G networks or transitioning into 5G, presenting opportunities to learn from them by streamlining networks through open RAN technology, which also opens up revenue streams from new services.
“We know SMS and voice will not make money anymore. Having data as just a package with X number of gigabytes a month just doesn't really make sense anymore. How much more can operators charge for just data? Where the money is really going, is to Apple TV, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and so on and so forth,” said Dabboussi.
“Services don't have to come from the operator, they can be a mix of operator-led, operator-managed and third party. A tipping point will emerge between the operators in Africa and their ability to compete by, first of all, reducing the cost structure of their network buildout. Second, enhancing and streamlining operations through automation. Third, introducing monetised services and experiences”.
He also claimed, that gaining revenue from traditional communication services such as voice and SMS, is becoming “less crucial” as customers find improved experiences on data services such as social media apps, which highlighted the growing need to upgrade networks in developing markerts with haste.
Rakuten Symphony has proof of concept open RAN trials in five African nations South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco, through its operator partners including MTN Group.
Dabboussi explained these countries have the “most advanced” networks for the automation of networks, which Rakuten has been an advocate of since 2019 when Rakuten Mobile launched what it claimed to be the world's first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native network, which did not rely on gear from the world's largest vendors.
“There are certain countries that still lack 4G. I think there is still a window of opportunity for some operators to adopt the new technology stack, and modernise even their 4G network. Whether it's a new 4G network or 5G, our goal is to offer an Africa specific solution set that could be a catalyst for reducing cost, meeting the profitability targets of operators, and potentially put that in an operating model,” said Dabboussi.