At AfricaCom 2018, Brenden Pronk, Avanti Sales Director-Southern Africa and Country Manager, talked about the challenge of connecting the African continent and the need for everyone to work together to make this a reality.
Here is an extract from his conversation with Jamie Davies of Telecoms.com
Jamie Davies: You [presented] yesterday and you were talking about the idea that individuals acting alone cannot connect Africa. It has to be done together. Can you expand on that?
Brenden Pronk: The real discussion here is that everybody has the same message “We can connect Africa, we have solutions, we have connectivity solutions.”
But the reality is none of those solutions are standalone… and they’re not going to be successful standalone. I think it’s arrogant for anyone to say that they can do it on their own.
Sometimes we can all be scared by our competition and we don’t collaborate enough. So the theme of yesterday’s talk was around liberating the potential by working together.
There’s fibre players, there’s satellite players, there’s content and we’re getting all of that into Africa, into South Africa through the open access data centres and the peering points.
So yes, we are commercially making it work for us, but how are we making it work for us in terms of creating that reach?
So, it’s liberating that potential, it’s working together and seeing how we can share infrastructure as well is obviously a big part of it.
Even just bringing down the costs, because at the end of the day you can only drive the costs of things down. There’s input costs you can drive that down to a certain point but we’ve got to share that infrastructure to get it to really work for us.
Jamie Davies: That’s the big thing across the continent isn’t it? It’s making connectivity commercially viable. On a collaboration point, are you actually seeing progress being made?
Brenden Pronk: I think definitely, I know we’ve had some key wins in terms of going into stages of trialling certain products, working with mobile network operators. How do we enable their solutions as well?
Traditionally when the mobile phone was first launched, all it really did was take a fixed solution and make it mobile in areas that were already connected.
Now we’re going out further, we have coverage in Africa, that’s our piece that we can add value, but how do we take that and put it into a package or solution with cheaper technologies and extend that reach and successfully bring it back.
The technology is continually advancing and with data centres growing, in country, the fibre networks, we are all part of the same solution. So we are a satellite provider but we consume fibre services, we are part of the data centre play, the content that we deliver and bring into the data centres. It’s all connected.
So we’re starting to have those conversations now and people are a little bit more open minded all around, everyone’s really had this hard fibre focus like everything has to be fibre, but fibre enables us and we enable fibre as well.
Jamie Davies: So progress is being made, but what can be done to take it to the next step?
Brenden Pronk: It’s the conversations, it’s the people. We’ve put a challenge out there. You saw in the presentation, the hashtag #together. Let’s start this #Together revolution and hopefully next year when we are at AfricaCom it’s not just me telling the story and we’ve had a good response.
People have been here and are saying “how can we do things together?”. Yes they’re looking for opportunity but it’s touched home in terms of us having that discussion. Hopefully there’s more than one of us and we present the results of what we’ve done.
Now obviously the next step for us is; we have launched Hylas 4 that completes our piece of the puzzle in terms of ubiquitous coverage. So yes those are the really the next steps.
Jamie Davies: You touched on it earlier. The new brand, the new feel to the company. What is new at Avanti? What is new that you are bringing to the market this year?
Not just in terms of what our product is and having a satellite but infrastructure on the continent – for the continent.
As I say, we have our ground earth stations here and we are able to deliver the content directly in to the big data centres that peer with the big international exchanges. You know Microsoft services, Amazon web services, Google, they are all present here, and with HYLAS 4, because the infrastructure is in the country, we are able to connect in the country and it’s not just the broadband service. We can create enterprise services backhaul services.
What really it gives us the differentiator it’s not just connectivity, but proper solutions that are able to service the bigger demand.
Jamie Davies: So in a way you’re sort of forcing the hands of collaboration across the country and across the continent.
Brenden Pronk: Absolutely and we’ve set the challenge. We’re there now and were doing it differently so, it’s up to the others to say “how do we make a difference with you?”