Interview: MTN Uganda turns to data

November 15, 2010 • Mobile and Telecoms, Top Stories

Themba Khumalo, CEO MTN Uganda caught up with Themba Khumalo, CEO MTN Uganda, at AfricaCom 2010. Here Themba talks about the growth of data services, the need for 3G connectivity and launching new and exciting ventures. Can you give us a quick overview of MTN Uganda’s position in the market?

Themba Khumalo: MTN Uganda has now 6,3 million subscribers from 5,2 million registered last year December. Currently, there are 11 million mobile subscribers in Uganda (from a population of 35 million) in a market divided between four other operators. Besides, we are talking about a very young market, with 50% of Ugandans below the age of 15, with strong growth opportunities in the future. What is the company’s strategy for next year?

Themba Khumalo: We are looking at increasing our focus on data solutions to stimulate growth and increase connectivity penetration: WiMAX/EDMA solutions for the corporate sector and 3G to target the mass-market further. Since 97% of our customers are using prepaid services, we want to push prepaid 3G to the lower and middle segments and we are constantly discussing with vendors to lower the costs of 3G-enabled handsets. Providing low-cost wireless 3G for the consumer market is part of our strategy. Currently our revenue from data services is 4% and we target up to 20% for 2011 from 3G, mobile money and new innovations.
We see a positive uptake in our mobile money services for relevant customers, with a consumer market of 1,3 million and a 20% penetration in our customer base. Also, there are possibilities in increasing user applications and allowing direct payments with a mobile wallet and providing value-added services by being able to purchase airtime from mobile money agents.
We are also looking at introducing mobile gaming and a targeted mobile advertising platform for companies. So far 3 million customers signed up to volunteer to receive advertising. Mobile security is a new critical area for us and we are busy selecting the best option for our tender. What is MTN Uganda’s take on increasing bandwidth capacity in the country?

Themba Khumalo: We are building an East African backhaul terrestrial network that is connected directly to the undersea cables. The collaboration between operators is crucial. We built extensive network links up to Rwanda and we are waiting for the Kenyan and Tanzanian links to be completed. Our national fibre network measures 3000km so far and relies on a hybrid satellite connectivity. We are busy now with building more loops to reach rural areas and using company-powered fibre for continuous delivery. What is your opinion on Uganda’s recent telecom price wars?

Themba Khumalo: The current price war is the result of increased competition and I believe price reduction will benefit the end-users, but it must be done without losing value and when the operators can afford it. Regulators have to manage the situation before it goes out of control.

By Denisa Oosthuizen

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