Making Internet Accessible, Affordable
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Group has a total customer base of 230 million customers as of December 2012 including 172 .4 million mobile customers and 14.9 million fixed broad band customers worldwide.
The Group is one of the main European operators for mobile and broad band internet services and under the brand Orange Business Services, it is one of the world leaders in providing telecommunication services to multinational companies. Orange employs over 170,000 people in 32 countries with 21,000 working in Africa, Middle East and Asia region. Orange Uganda at its launch in 2009 became the 15th African country in Orange's international footprint. It has positioned itself as a strong challenger on the market with a series of innovative and attractive offers.
What has contributed to this rapid growth, considering you ventured into the Ugandan telecom market in 2007 when there was a turf war in the telecom sector?
Innovation - whereby we have more than 5,100 researchers to better our mobile applications, mobile TV, IPTV and voice services. We also have Orange Labs for instance in Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast and telecentres to test products that we have rolled out for less than eight months to ensure that the anticipation and design of the product is as planned. We also value customer participation and feedback - we have 46,000 lab explorers.
We ask our customers to test our new products before and after the launch to get their feedback. Orange Uganda, in partnership with Makerere University, has come up with the innovative awards to reward developers. We noticed that there was need to expand on the base of participants for the competition. The winners will be showcasing at the Orange Expo this October.
How do you compare Ugandan data service market with the rest of the East African region?
Uganda has very good internet services. Apart from South Africa, Uganda is among the first African countries where LTE 4G technology has been launched, so it's ahead of many countries in the continent.
Secondly, it could also jump and adapt to the new data services very fast. It is well geared to jump into the Internet age with the ongoing infrastructural improvements such as the connection to an alternative undersea Cable via Tanzania, which will also enable network expansion.
Some analysts say that since your competitors have already launched LTE 4G, they expected Orange to launch probably 5G, why is this so?
The reality is that we do not want to deceive our customers. It is expensive to install and maintain such upgrades, but we can look into it in the near future. When I first came to Uganda in 2008, it took me about six hours to down load a file but as soon as Orange launched LTE 3G, the problem of slow internet was solved. operators is decreas
Telecom experts say that the Ugandan market is too small for over seven operators and that the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for most ing. What is your view of the industry and how could the ARPU statistics be improved?
I agree that the market is tough because the size of the population of about 36 million people is small. It does not make financial sense to have over seven operators. It is also wrong for operators to think that the best way to keep or attract customers is through low pricing. This is what I must say saw Warid accumulate a huge debt because of price cuts, yet it is not just the price of the products and services that affect your profit-loss portfolio. You have to ensure you do not accumulate debts because you cannot generate enough revenue to cover your operation costs. That is why at Orange, we try to offer a full package to our customers. The ARPU is declining because of the fast evolution of the telecom industry.
We lead in the data market with a share ranging between 60%-75%. After the Bharti-Airtel- Warid merger, our market share has improved to between 15%-16%. There is no short-cut if a company wants to revive its ARPU, it must target increasing its data services. Time for the voice market is over even in the European countries where Orange has huge investments. Voice will soon be a free service therefore the future of telecom companies is data.
With the recent mandatory Sim Card registration, human rights activists say it poses the risk of government intruding on the privacy of its citizens. What assurance do you have that you will not breach the customers' trust?
Every operator to some extent cannot say no to the local authorities or the government especially where a country like Uganda is subject to terrorist attacks, it's the case all over the world. It all depends on the specific case, specific product and specific requirement. The July 2010 bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Restaurant in Kansanga was a clear example where everything including calls were blocked pending the investigations.
What are your major plans for the Ugandan market?
We are committed to enrich the lives of Ugandans though simple. Innovative communications products and services, with unrivalled value and a clear focus on customer care and data services. We hope to launch more innovations such as the IPTV camera that is very significant in surveillance in public places. We will work with the Uganda Communications Commission to protect private data. When we invest in a country, we do not look at just buying or selling, our goal is long term. There may be possibilities of mergers and acquisitions.
Copyright The Independent. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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