How the internet changed and continues to change telecommunications

Ever since Alexander Graham Bell made that first call from his now famous invention, the telephone and its iterated version – the mobile phone have forever changed the world. I can attribute the term “global village” to the fact that the mobile phone has made it possible to reach and interact with anyone with a signal across the globe. The pivotal place that the traditional telco had, has seen many of them grow and rank as some of the largest companies in the regions they operate, based on revenues and market capitalization, making them an investor magnet. Telcos have been able to set their price and have the market make do with it due to lack of options. Continue reading How the internet changed and continues to change telecommunications

Trojan horses in the Safaricom stable

We all know the story of Safaricom, languishing in the backwaters of its big brother Telecom Kenya, with meager resources and a small team, to its surprising tear-off and eventual positioning with per second billing that delivered hockey stick growth. The nature of any technology based business is that sooner or later the growth line plateaus and the challenges of enterprise which are much different from those of the startup phase begin to bite, more so if one is publicly listed. Continue reading Trojan horses in the Safaricom stable

How mobile players will eat the media fraternity’s lunch

First, there was the Facebook paper that sent global media houses into panic mode as the access to their audience and resultant revenue streams came under threat from a company that has hitherto been considered an ally, driving readership through network effects. Locally, the switch from analogue to digital transmission has taken residence in the courts with the three musketeers (who control 87% TV market share and 80% radio audiences) managing to stay on air through a series of court decisions in their favor. The unfortunate prognosis of the events unfolding, paints a picture of a reactive and ill-informed strategy by the stakeholders of the African Digital Network whose take on co-opetition seems to be stalling the migration up and until they all individually get a proper sense of direction in-house. The play by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and PANG was clear and it is surprising that the three biggest media houses as measured by both reach and revenue chose to sit in the sidelines almost as if betting on clout to maintain status quo.

As of Monday, 12th January…

A consortium made up of Kenya’s three leading media houses has placed orders to import digital TV set-top boxes that are set to retail for as low as Sh 2,000 each.The Internet-ready set-top boxes are expected to arrive in the country in the next three weeks.The Nation Media Group (NMG), Royal Media Services (RMS) and Standard Group (SG) have placed orders for 150,000 of the devices, which are set to be the cheapest free-to-air digital converters in the market.“These set-top boxes will be quite different from what is already there in the market. The devices will be sold at a one-off price of between Sh2,000 and Sh2,500,” said the NMG board chairman Wilfred Kiboro. The three companies, under the Africa Digital Network (ADN) consortium, also disclosed that a million more of the devices are expected end of March.

Continue reading How mobile players will eat the media fraternity’s lunch

Mobile Virtual Network Operator moves – hit or miss?

It is always fun to sit and watch industries morph as technology becomes cheaper or regulation changes lowering the barriers to entry. The latest dance to pique my interest has been that of mobile juggernaut Safaricom and their banking sector peer Equity bank. Regulatory changes have not been kind to Safaricom in many respects; their first line competition has been busy pushing for the opening up of their agency network, which pundits have often cited as their biggest strength and now new players by way of recently licensed mobile virtual network operators are angling for a piece of the current telecoms pie. Continue reading Mobile Virtual Network Operator moves – hit or miss?

What it will take to win mobile payments in Africa

Apple has made known its planned assault on global payment juggernauts, with first in line being PayPal, a player active in 203 markets, in 26 countries and 152 million registered users. Some pundits have argued that Apple has all the makings of a true disruptor. With over $ 160 billion in cash reserves and liquid instruments and over 500 million devices out in the wild, this might be true, but the real opportunity still lies in emerging markets where economies are mulling over the move to cash lite ecosystems. This is where the Apple story and that of many other Silicon Valley based payment companies gets a damper, an almost zero presence in the markets where mobile money with its peer to peer origins has shown great potential. Continue reading What it will take to win mobile payments in Africa