Ramblings about startups, cellular, entrepreneurship, tech, & the future!

Some questions for South Africa’s cellular industry in 2015

The cellular industry is a rapidly evolving beast. Technologies advance, company’s ambitions wax and wane, regulatory landscapes change, and international tides turn. And all these micro and macro events ensure that we are left with a cellular market with an ever-changing array of new cellphones, new contracts, new billing schemes, new deals, new technologies, new players, new mergers, new complaints, new regulations, and other surprises.

Last year was no exception to this abundance of flux and resulted in spectacular changes to the cellular industry. Now that 2015 has arrived, I am very intruiged to see what the year ahead will bring in this space.

These are the burning questions that I look forward to receiving answers for over the course of the year:

  • Would Vodacom’s proposed acquisition of Neotel go through, or will the other service providers succeed in blocking it?
  • Will Telkom and MTN conclude their network sharing and roaming agreements, and what affect, if any, will that have on the pricing and offering from these networks?
  • Orange has been busy lately announcing that they’ll be opening up physical stores in South Africa, launching an ISP, and offering WiFi services. What else will they have in store for us in 2015?
  • Cell C has spent a fair bit of money upgrading their infrastructure. Will it be enough to help the overburdened network?
  • Prepaid call rates have drastically dropped over the course of 2014. What impact will this have on the post-paid subscriber base out there? How many post-paid customers will make the switch to prepaid to take advantage of these rates and the flexibility and freedom that prepaid provides?
  • With ARPUs (Average Revenue Per User) continuing to decline, what else will cellular service providers have up their sleeves to recoup some profits? Billing increments for data have already been adjusted by a few service providers and Cell C has already recently updated their tariffs – what’s next?
  • Where will the dust settle on the OTT (over-the-top services) debate? MTN and Vodacom are worried about it, and Cell C is embracing it somewhat by offering free use of WhatsApp to their customers. And what will happen when WhatsApp starts offering integrate voice calling (ala Skype)?
  • Telkom have a really impressive, convenient, value-packed offering with their new converged solutions. Plus they have a solid network behind them. Will this mark the turning point for Telkom in the mobile space and will it finally be time for consumers, and corporates, to see what they have to offer?
  • This past year saw introductions of the cheapest smartphones we’ve ever seen. What other offerings will be released this year and how will it speed up the migration from feature phones?
  • What will happen in the MVNO space? How will Mr Price mobile take off and who (or specifically, which bank?) will start the next MVNO?
  • As mobile broadband continues to grow, what affect will that have on network capacity, pricing, and offers from the various cellular service providers. Telkom has already begun offering LTE Advanced, which aims to compete with the FTTH offerings – will any of the other service providers jump into this space as well?
  • Will ICASA come forward with anything exciting during the year? Is the talk of them allocating and assigning more spectrum just talk?
  • What other Value-Added Services will the service providers put on the table? Cell C has already launched a loyalty programme, GET MORE, and MTN just launched a streaming video service called FrontRow. What will be next?

I work at a company called Tariffic which closely monitors the cellphone industry and help corporates and consumers identify the optimal packages for them to choose based on their actual usage. We have some pretty involved software to automate all of this and we are saving cellphone users huge amounts of money by doing so. This also means that we have to watch the unfolding drama in the cellphone industry with laser-like focus and ensure that we’re ready for whatever this tumultuous market throws at us.  It seems that we’ll be kept on our toes this year!

I think we’re in for a very exciting 2015, which will hopefully bring with it cheaper prices, enhanced offerings, and increased transparency for consumers.

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