2018 saw spectrum release discussions for a faster LTE network, increasing communication reach in rural areas and enterprises across industries embracing innovative technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, 2019 will be the year when South Africa start-ups lead the innovation in IIoT and AI, and their cross-industry integration, according to Saurabh Verma, head of ICT for Frost & Sullivan’s Middle East and Africa Region.
Verma presented the 2019 ICT trends for South Africa at Frost & Sullivan’s ICT predictions road show. He said companies will need to revisit their competitive strategy to acquire new skill sets to remain competitive. At the State of the Nation address on 7 February, President Cyril Ramaphosa also stressed the need to develop skills for the “fourth Industrial Revolution” and called for a major shake-up in education to prepare the country to compete in the digital global economy.
With the government reaffirming the importance of ICT, specifically in the communication sector, Frost & Sullivan identified seven ICT predictions for 2019.
Prediction 1: The rise of the telecommunications sector
The telecommunications sector revenue will reach 149.5 billion in 2019. The ICT industry revenue is expected to reach R305 billion in 2019, with the telecommunications sector contributing the most at 49.6%. The cloud services market will contribute the least at 0.6%.
Telecommunications providers will strengthen digital content offerings, including OTT messaging, VOD, pay TC and triple-pay services. They will also actively acquire and partner with IT service providers to strengthen their in-house resources and capabilities to compete in the ICT services ecosystem.
Prediction 2: Multi-tenanted data centres
Multi-tenanted data centres will drive growth in data centre revenues. The data centre (DC) revenue contributes 8% toward the overall ICT industry and is estimated to reach R8.0 billion in 2019 with a growth of 10.6%.
While a 1.8% growth in DC’s revenue is expected in 2019, the growth of DC services via cloud will take longer than expected due to consumer protection regulations and the fact that large enterprises’ transition to cloud is hampered by legacy infrastructure.
A potential business model would be for cloud services to target SMEs as they have the potential to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
Prediction 3: 5G will take longer than anticipated; 3G is the present reality for South Africa
Expensive data packages and delays in spectrum release are hampering subscriber base growth for 5G. While mobile operators are ready to develop 4G networks and deploy 5G services, 3G will be the dominant technology over the next three years.
5G promises significantly higher speed than 3G and 4G; however, there are still concerns about the immediate reliance on 5G for industries. 5G will be appropriate for industries requiring real-time decision making.
Prediction 4: South African start-ups will lead the innovation in IIoT and its cross-industry integration
With start-ups focussing on innovative IoT solutions to reach 6.2 million in M2M subscriptions, non-voice services, especially mobile data (3G and 4G), will continue to drive IIoT market growth in 2019.
Telecommunications providers will become end-to-end solutions providers, growing beyond offering connectivity services to provide sensors, hardware, software, platforms, cloud, analytics and security.
Prediction 5: AI-powered business applications to increase productivity and efficient customer support and services
AI solutions that address regionally relevant challenges such as poaching and accessible healthcare and education services will grow steadily, improving the quality of life in South Africa.
Hospitality, manufacturing and mining will use AI services in 2019.
Prediction 6: Digital transformation to improve customer experiences
Customers are demanding self-service, and companies aiming to improve the customer experience will focus on the digitisation of processes such as AI-enabled customer touch points.
An omni-channel strategy will ensure a consistent, high-quality customer experience, regardless of how, where or why a customer chooses to interact with an organisation.
Prediction 7: Incumbents and fintech firms will continue to enjoy a (mostly) good relationship
With the exception of direct competitors, South African banks will continue to attempt to work with fintech start-ups and encourage innovation in this area.
South Africa’s fintech ecosystem is becoming steadily more innovative and dynamic with South African banks attempting to work with fintech firms either through acquisitions or partnerships to capitalise on innovations.
Blockchain, augmented reality and virtual reality are the emerging technologies that Frost & Sullivan believes will disrupt the South African ICT industry in 2019.
Blockchain has the potential to greatly increase the efficiency of data transfer between multiple parties, significantly reducing delays and costs, despite cryptocurrency price clashes and regulations, which will prompt exploration of other applications of blockchain technology.
Augmented reality will be largely used in facilitating training and education and in industrial maintenance in the engineering services industry. It will also be used to enhance customer engagement and branding in the banking and retail industries through gamified mobile app-based platforms.
“Lastly, virtual reality will redefine the training, marketing and advertising service delivery models across various sectors and provide customers with an immersive and interactive experience while helping to reach a wider audience to establish deep-rooted relationships with existing and potential new customers,” said Verma.