As South Africa moves ahead to becoming a major player in the gig economy, a lot of challenges need to be addressed when it comes to the telecommunications industry that will enable this vision and put the country on the global map. Mobax has signaled its intention to become a major role player in the movement towards addressing these challenges as Vuyani Jarana joins as shareholder and the group Chairperson to realize this vision. Jarana will bring strong industry experience to the table having spent many years in strategic C-level positions at Vodacom (COO and Chief Officer of the Enterprise Business Unit) and SAA (Group CEO).
“As African economies continue to digitize and transform themselves into “GIG Economies”, the need to build the underlying infrastructure to meet the demands of citizens, businesses and government will increase multi-fold. Access to capabilities of large-scale ICT infrastructure and services company like Mobax will not only ensure speed of rollout and quality of service, but should be able to aggregate the overall industry infrastructure economics to unlock true value to participating telco clients. Given its track record in Telco infrastructure build and support, I have found Mobax to be the right platform to unlock true value for the industry. Facing major challenges ranging from spectrum constraints, increased price regulatory pressures, unstable grid electricity exacerbated by infrastructure vandalism and theft, Telcos must innovate not only in terms of diversifying their revenue streams but must also innovate on the operating and capex cost side in deploying and maintaining the underlying infrastructure. In an environment where the price per meg is declining and demand for data services skyrocketing, the telco strategy should be about producing a MEG of data at the lowest cost possible, thus creating headroom to compete profitably. This is where the capabilities of Mobax will come into play, partnering with Operators and industry to address these challenges. This is Mobax’s ambition and mission over the next five years,” said Jarana.
A future for all South Africans
Today the world is facing unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus that is spreading very fast. Whether the virus will ultimately die, or the world will learn to live with it and manage it as part of overall healthcare response to diseases, what is clear is that nation economies will be severely impacted. Jump-starting economies post-corona is what economic planners and experts are seized with across the world. Two industries that continue to grow during corona and will continue even post-corona is Agriculture and ICT sector, driven by demand for food and broadband respectively. Delivery of education and healthcare will be transformed in unprecedented ways thus creating possibilities for an inclusive digital economy, covering both the haves and the have-nots. To jumpstart the economy, capacity to address the two sectors rapidly and at scale is going to be the major determinant whether we can rapidly repair the COVID19 damage to the economy. Mobax’s experience in delivering large scale Telco infrastructure projects will prove to be an important point of advantage in fast-tracking broadband rollout across the country and the continent. We will continue to partner with Telcos help them rollout infrastructure to meet the needs of their customers.
An inclusive growth
Referring to the growth in the ICT infrastructure services market in Africa, Jarana spoke of the African ICT sector as a sector that is going “Back to the Future” in that the developed economies delivered their mobile infrastructure at back of legacy fixed infrastructure which Africa did not have. Adopting a mobile first strategy was the only pragmatic approach for Africa, however as the demand for data services increases across the continent, there is a need for Telcos to invest in both fixed and mobile infrastructure if they are to meet the demands of Digitising nation economies. “What is important for Mobax is how, in taking advantage of these developments, it brings other Small and Medium Enterprises to partner in its infrastructure build programme thus widening participation in the industry growth. This is my expectation of the new Mobax, creating ecosystems of value for all.” said Jarana. The rapid growth and adoption of 5G technology means that change in the telecommunications pace will be accelerated. If companies want to be major role players in this industry, they will need to change with the times. Fred Watkins, Mobax CEO, said that the company is in the process of rebranding so that it will be able to realize the vision that Jarana hopes to achieve. “Mobax is an African carrier neutral mobile infrastructure build and maintenance company. We understand that there is a lot of expectation in region when it comes to job creation and skills development. Mobax is embracing this by bringing key suppliers that are small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) so that they can also contribute to the country’s economic development,” said Watkins. Watkins said that it is important for Mobax to become more than a supplier of underlying infrastructure. The digital economy requires new skills, most importantly increased rollout of digital services infrastructure whether it’s for healthcare delivery, education delivery platforms or accelerated rollout of payment solutions will require skills to maintain such infrastructure. As a technology and engineering company that is at the cutting edge of industry tech-developments, Mobax is well-placed to provide such skills development services to the industry, the country and the region.
So, what can the telecommunications industry expect from Mobax in the future. “Mobax has always prided itself on being the leading supplier of infrastructure to the African telecommunications industry. What we want to become is an infrastructure company which the Telcos can rely on during times of difficulty and challenge. Instability of the electricity grid and escalating electricity costs present challenges of network quality and cost escalations not matched by telco revenue increases. At Mobax we see an opportunity to partner with Telcos and provide them with power as a service (PAAS) solution up the DC level. Our solution is largely green energy biased, thus giving the Telcos a “hat-trick” of benefits, Network availability, Carbon footprint reduction as well as long-term Opex Cost predictability,” said Jarana. He added that he is excited about the challenge of developing a platform that will allow SMMEs to become major role players in the ICT sectors further development and the overall economy. Jarana points out the ICT sector input costs across the continent are largely import driven leading to significant capital outflows to countries with patents to produce technology. He believes that a concerted effort must be made to localize appropriate portions of the ICT industry spend within the African continent. Manufacturing and assembly of some of input technologies should, to the extent possible and practical, be done at regional level to support job creation and development of component ecosystem in various countries of the region. Whilst the industry tended to outsource local services to OEMs, we think that this is an opportunity being lost to further develop local tech capabilities. Having a vendor neutral partner like Mobax exercise effective stewardship over the Telco’s multi-vendor network, keeps every vendor honest and the operator gets an objective appraisal of network performance. We will partner with OEMs and Network Operators to deliver best network performance through effective deployment and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure.
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