14 February 2017

Africa: Voice Calls On Data Network Is Future of Telecom - Vodafone

Photo: Daily Monitor
A Vodafone staff attends to a client at the firm’s Customer Service Centre in Kampala recently. Vodafone says the future of making voice calls rests on data network, and as a company they are providing the 4G Internet as a solution to their clients.

Customers, especially the youth and those in formal work environments, need a reliable Internet solution if they are to keep pace with the developments in the world. The fourth generation Internet (4G) is an advanced solution, and service providers have the responsibility to move all consumers to 4G for a quicker Internet experience. Vodafone says they offer this, and that the future of telecom lies in data networks. Jonathan Adengo caught up with Ms Progress Chisenga, the marketing director, Vodafone Uganda. Below are the excerpts:

Tell us about yourself. What is your experience and how will you use it to bring value to the Vodafone brand in the country?

I have more than 10 years of professional marketing experience in the telecommunications industry at senior management level with expertise in the areas of innovation, consumer insight generation, business planning, project management, customer value management and brand management.

I have a strong understanding of customer and market dynamics in fast moving consumer goods and telecommunications.

My previous assignment was in Tanzania where I served as marketing director of Zantel, which is part of Millicom. I am coming in as a marketing director at Vodafone Uganda.

What kind of impact do you think technology such as mobile penetration and the Internet has had on the telecom industry?

According to the Uganda Communications Commission, the Internet penetration in Uganda is currently estimated at 15 million users up from 8.5 million in 2013.

What that shows is today, with the ever changing technology, you can make voice calls on a data network and tomorrow we have hi-definition calls on data.

For those interested in digital first, you can still make voice calls on a data network and this is where the future is.

The recent reports show that 30 per cent of our population is using Internet. This gives us an opportunity as Vodafone because it is the space where we operate.

It, therefore, gives us confidence that we are actually in the right path because customers are ready and hungry for this service. All they need is a reliable solution and we are confident that is what we are providing because fourth generation Internet (4G) is very advanced as we have the responsibility to move those customers currently on 2G to 4G.

The fact that Internet penetration is quite high is a positive thing.

In your opinion, is Uganda ready for the 4G movement? What is the Internet penetration rate for the 4G so far because 3G has not yet saturated?

The assurance we are giving our customers is that with 4G they will be able to do much more than they have been doing. Basically, speed is what resonates with 4G which is not what they experienced with 3G.

In terms of Internet penetration, we are sitting at 31 per cent, as for the differentiation, that is something that we are going to request for going forward so that all that information is available to customers.

The telecom industry in Uganda is possibly one of the tightest competitions ever, with some analysts saying the market is saturated. What is your view?

I think competition is good because it makes the market healthy. It brings in innovation and makes the customers happy.

Our focus is to know what our customers need and how best we can serve them. You have seen us come up with new apps in the market which were not there before.

How does Vodafone intend to fare in the face of such data price competitions?

What determines the price of the bundle is not what we want but what costs go into delivering that service. There are infrastructure and connectivity costs which all factor in the final cost that is met by the customer.

If the cost is high, there is no way the operator will start operating at a loss because if we go into the loss zone we shall be priced out of the market because we cannot sustain the costs. So it is not right to compare us with other countries such as Tanzania.

Vodafone has been associated with young people. This is evident in most initiatives that you have undertaken as a company recently. What role does Vodafone play in this customer segment?

Our main focus at Vodafone is the youth. The youth in sub-Saharan Africa remain the strength of the continent today.

There is a survey that puts the population of the youth in this part of Africa at 250 million people.

For us, it is important that, that tranche of the population feels accompanied and empowered because they are not only leaders of today, but also of tomorrow.

At Vodafone, we are cognizant of this and other trends, and demonstrate our support through nurturing young talent. We do this through the provision of fast and affordable Internet.

Tomorrow, as you know is data-led. As Vodafone in Uganda, we have a 'digital first' mind-set. That is our strategy; the youth are the future of tomorrow.

If we empower them today then we know they will be our customers tomorrow. There is a marriage between us and the youth because what they want is what we want and are willing to offer.

As marketing director, how do you plan to expand your brand's visibility in the telecoms sector in the country?

When it comes to strengthening our brand, the starting point is making sure that our services are above question and are there to address the needs that our customers have. These services are not just there for the sake of it but to address people's needs such as communication, connectivity, staying in touch and having an uninterrupted solution.

Any challenges the industry faces?

I will not be truthful if I said there are no challenges. It is very important that we are always ahead of what the customers want. Fifteen years ago, 4G was never heard of; if we had given up that time then we would not be able to serve our customers today.

So, as a service provider, our major challenge is the need to continuously innovate to be able to meet the needs of the customer.

Where do you see Vodafone in a year's time from now?

The most important thing is for us to stand out differently by understanding what the customer needs are.

And for us, we have chosen the youth and we know Uganda has the youngest population in the world and its one of the nations that have embraced the Small Medium Enterprises.

So we know our space and we are not going to compare ourselves with all these operators in the market.

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