Market consolidation is becoming more prevalent in the South African telecommunications market as operators look to build the capabilities required to position themselves as end-to-end ICT and digital service providers.

Typical examples of this, says Frost & Sullivan, are Vodacom’s procurement of XLink to expand and strengthen its Internet of Things (IoT) offerings, and Telkom’s acquisition of BCX to bolster its enterprise ICT services portfolio.

“Changing market, customer, and technology dynamics are compelling telco operators to become more agile and customer centric by investing in new products and services aiming to transform their cost base, and simplifying as well as digitalising complex business models, processes and systems,” says digital transformation senior research analyst, Deepti Dhinakaran. “Moving forward, telco operators should diversify services, ensure they offer a superior digital customer experience, improve time to market, and form strategic partnerships in order to remain relevant.”

Digital Transformation of Telecommunications Operators in South Africa, 2016, is part of Frost & Sullivan’s Communication Services Growth Partnership Service. The analysis examines: digital customer engagement, digital entertainment services (like OTT, VOD, and Pay TV), mobile app-based services, converged connectivity, cloud-based services, mobile-driven digital payments, adaptive mobile advertising, and IoT-driven applications. The study also takes a look at strategic and tactical initiatives and trends that operators should be looking to adopt. Case studies of leading operators, like Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom, contain insights on how digitalisation is driving revenue numbers, and the strategic initiatives that have been adopted by these operators over the years in both the B2B and B2C segments.

Key telco operator investment areas that show significant growth potential in South Africa include IoT/M2M, fibre, eCommerce, and Big Data and analytics. During the next three years, telco operators will focus on these areas to expedite their digital transformation journey, while offering innovative and diversified services. Other developments driving digital transformation include:

A surge in data consumption driving 3G and 4G network coverage, resulting from an increasing demand for new and innovative mobile application-based services
A boost to fixed broadband, wireless broadband, and mobile data services due to rising demand for data
Telco operator migration to more advanced networks and IP-based services
An increase in IT spend of 15,5% from 2016-2017,
Telco development of in-store digital experience to boost customer experience, and
A growing demand for digital entertainment, digital payments, and IoT-based services;

“Legacy information technology systems (IT), disjoint IT stacks and a lack of integration between business support and operations support systems, on the other hand, are limiting the flexibility of operators which, in turn, hinders growth,” says Dhinakaran. “As a result, telecommunications operators are investing in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and leveraging social media channels to provide a well-integrated, innovative, omni-channel customer service experience. Additionally, operators can be seen investing in networks transformation technologies such as Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) in order to enhance their scalability and flexibility to offer new services, while also improving their efficiencies.”

The study includes mobile network operators, fixed-line operators, and mobile virtual network operator segments. End user segments include consumers, small and medium enterprises, and large enterprises.