Upstream Deputy CEO, Kostas Kastanis, on the Future of Nigerian Telecoms and How to Accelerate Digital Growth
“Potential”, “digital growth” and “new revenues” are three keywords characterizing Nigeria’s telecom market. That’s according to mobile technology company, Upstream, who helped kick off the first virtual NigeriaCom 2020. During the event, Upstream Deputy CEO, Kostas Kastanis, shared his thoughts on the future of Nigerian telecoms and how to accelerate digital growth in the region.
Participating in the panel: “The future of Nigerian Telecoms-Exploring Telco & MNO strategies” Kastanis began by commending and thanking the mobile network operators (MNOs) that have stepped up and worked hard to keep people connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kastanis is a firm believer of the importance of the Nigerian telecoms market in the context of Africa’s digital growth, and the “tremendous potential” that mobile network operators have to drive change and close the digital gap.
With low penetration and prepaid connections dominating, the country’s mobile market itself is on a dynamic upward track. According to data from the GSMA out of 179 million connections, 96 percent are pre-paid, with only 7.7 percent of those 4G enabled. Market penetration is also less than 50 percent, with just over 102 million unique mobile subscribers out of a population of 206 million.
“In markets like Nigeria MNOs are uniquely positioned to help bridge the digital divide and bring more people online giving them an equal footing to achieve growth and prosperity”, Kastanis commented. Upstream is working with operators across the African Continent to offer Zero-D, an online platform that allows MNOs to offer free, ad-funded access to key internet services when their users have run out of data. The service aims to strike a balance between preserving mobile operator revenue and building brand loyalty, while also improving the “digital health” of the region by ensuring more people have access to basic internet services. During the pandemic the local deployments of the free ad-funded platform have proved crucial and have afforded the African operators making it available to their customers increased brand loyalty.
Moving into discussing revenues, Kastanis highlighted how the pandemic has also forced a shift to digital, underpinned by the closure of physical stores and some call centers. With digital transactions becoming the new norm for consumers, MNOs need to look into ways to capitalize on this trend and digitize their portfolio, improve their customer reach, reduce churn and increase ARPU.
Drawing from data, Kastanis told virtual NigeriaCom attendees that the combined reach of mobile network operators in Nigeria (180 million) far exceeds that of Facebook, highlighting the immense potential in advertising when it comes to driving revenue for operators. “Mobile advertising is for the mobile industry the VAS of tomorrow”, he mentioned in his talk, adding “MNOs need to secure new sources of income to safeguard their future”.
To eliminate fraud, protect their customers and revenues, and stay ahead of regulation, MNOs must always add a layer of security across their digital offerings, Kastanis also argued.
Currently addressing 1.2 billion mobile customers in high growth markets, Upstream provides MNOs with innovative solutions that help them achieve digital growth. In Nigeria, Upstream has already gone live with Zero-D for Airtel, one of the top four mobile operators in Nigeria, as part of an “out of credit” product to help keep customers connected. Similar launches are also scheduled with 9Mobile and MTN. Two Nigerian MNOs are already in advanced discussions about employing Upstream’s security solution to safeguard their customers and protect their revenues from fraud.
NigeriaCom, which for the first time was made exclusively virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regularly brings together more than 650 executives and digital tech leaders to discuss the region’s digital economy. Upstream’s attendance at the 2020 event marks the beginning of its virtual event schedule. It will also hold a virtual booth at AfricaCom 2020 which will run from the 9th – 13th November as part of the new virtual Africa Tech Festival.
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