Connect World Magazine
Africa and the Middle East 2012
The fibre infrastructure is the foundation of the communication system in any country, and has the power to unlock access to advanced services, from IPTV to mobile Internet, from improved health to controlling mega-cities crime. This large fibre ‘pipe’ becomes the lifeline to international connectivity. To build a revenue-generating network, it is vital to implement a policy control application that monitors usage, provides advanced charging and applies policy rules. This flexibility is needed, for example when fibre capacity is shared with neighbouring countries. At the same time, the right billing system gives operators opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling services.
The fibre optic revolution currently taking place in developing countries, especially those in Africa and the Middle East, will bring with it regional, social, business and human benefits. By introducing advanced broadband connections it will not only ‘open up’ countries and entire regions to improved communications, but it will also generate much-needed revenue for the telecoms industry. This article will explore the social and business benefits of fibre and how best to install it in order to make the most of its opportunities and benefits.
Broadband has a key role to play in development. For communities in developing countries, an improved broadband infrastructure means enhanced access to the Internet. The connection between broadband, economic growth and job creation is well known, but broadband can also help solve problems that are more specific to emerging economies, such as megacities, pollution, health, education, traffic, access to government services and crime. Simply by improving non face-to-face communications many of the above issues can be improved.
The advanced broadband connection that fibre brings also means greater communications and connectivity beyond national borders, connecting developing to developed countries and enabling businesses in developing regions to interact with world business centres on a more equal footing.
Developing countries cannot afford to ignore broadband – those that do will be in danger of being left behind.
A fibre network has the potential to reach out into some areas for the first time, or at least the first time in an affordable and far-reaching way. For many years, it was widely believed that it would be mobile that would ‘open up’ developing countries and help solve many of their social, economic and environmental problems. But fibre has much to offer if implemented and managed correctly.
The telecoms industries in developing countries will be crucial to the success of fibre – without it, fibre and its potential can not be realised. Fixed line operators will play a key role in this transformation and need to be ready to do so. Incumbent operators can simultaneously maintain traditional wireline business – through existing copper lines, for instance – whilst applying the lessons learnt from the mobile industry in order to take advantage of the new influx of fibre and innovate in response to infrastructure developments.
For the telecom industry, the arrival of fibre presents huge revenue opportunities. Fibre will enable fixed line operators to transform their networks and offerings. Their existing networks and infrastructure give them their greatest advantage – exclusivity in inter-urban transmission – which enables them to create value and maximise this valuable resource. Fibre optic networks present endless opportunities to put in place telecommunications technologies alongside an assurance of high quality service for subscribers. This will enable operators to offer new services and experiences to consumers and will result in new revenue opportunities. Fibre would allow operators to offer transmission services to cellular operators and ISPs, legacy and next generation network services to government authorities and public bodies, and improved connectivity for local, regional and international businesses, as well as individual subscribers.
Fibre presents an exciting and significant opportunity for the developing world population, many of whom will find telephony and internet charges more affordable, and therefore more accessible. The new networks will support high speed Internet (especially to rural areas), IPTV, VoIP, domestic and international voice communications, voicemail access, roaming, wireless data and a range of online services. For businesses and subscribers, this will give them online access to government, banking, commerce, learning and healthcare and means, in turn, a better standard of working and living. Individuals will be better connected to each other and so will villages, towns and whole communities. In turn, regions, both urban and rural, will benefit economically, socially and personally.
As well as the new networks, new Internet traffic management technology can be used to set policies for bandwidth allocation according to, for example, the time of day, the type of user or the application used. This same technology can also ensure that those users are charged according to the business policies. For businesses, this technology means they can be assured of the best broadband access when they most need it and for individuals, it means an increased range of services, fair and accurate pricing and thus, an improved yet affordable broadband service.
Operators need to be prepared in order to fully take advantage of the benefits and revenue opportunities that the new fibre networks present. It is not enough to simply build a network. For operators looking for true convergence of the many lines of businesses they want to provide (including fixed, mobile, fibre, interconnections, cloud, leased lines, content, IPTV, VSAT, machine-to machine [M2M], governmental services and so on) they will need to ensure that they have systems in place to ensure effective implementation, management and monetisation.
In the instances where the broadband services will be distributed to neighbouring countries, bandwidth will need to be allocated both domestically and across national boundaries. This can be done at the fibre’s point of entry to ensure bandwidth is allocated in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Dynamic policies can be constructed based on the profiles of all the players in the value chain and the requirements that will be placed on the fibre network. Again, bandwidth allocation systems can also be tailored according to the time of day: throttling foreign operators or competitors at peak times and creating usage ‘happy hours’ for subscribers to encourage them to try new services.
The main areas to consider for fixed line operators implementing fibre are the point of entry of the fibre into the country, usually via an undersea cable, and the management of that fibre network within the country. In order to create real value, the fibre pipe needs to be managed, controlled and monetised properly to transform it from a simple dumb pipe merely carrying bits and bytes into a valuable asset and a tool for better connected communities for each country and its national telecom ecosystem. The operator will also be responsible for the technical aspects of the network, such as support and maintenance and, by working with a management company, which can also manage the fibre network in the domestic market, the operator can create a fibre network that is profitable, efficient and increases revenue.
Wireline operators will also need to find the correct balance between managing huge volumes of data traffic and maintaining subscriber satisfaction and this is where lessons from the wireless industry have some influence. A policy control application enables operators to monitor network usage in real-time using fully configurable business rules, defining how to manage network resources, applications and subscribers, and at the same time, generating revenue from personalised content and services.
To build a revenue-generating network, the implementation of a policy control application to monitor usage, combined with an advanced charging and billing system, is vital. The right billing system means that they’ll be able to generate revenue from existing networks with new personalised services. It will give them opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling – ensuring that convergence goes beyond just one bill for all services. A policy control application also ensures that all the players in the value chain can become a critical part of the new traffic and not fall foul of disintermediation.
Operators on the African continent such as Cameroon’s Camtel and TelOne in Zimbabwe have implemented convergent billing, policy control and traffic allocation and management systems which enable the billing and network departments to keep up to speed with marketing requests. In a market with such potential as the new fibre industry, the ability for operators to better respond to the choices their customers make with personalised packages will enable them to gain a competitive edge with fast, simple implementation of new services and, in turn, improve ROI.
Whilst copper lines and wireless have gone some way to creating better connected communities in developing countries, it is fibre optic cable that holds the most potential for further development and progress. For individuals and businesses, the arrival of fibre and its correct implementation and management, both within the country and outside of it, has the potential to change lives and the way in which is business is done to bring about further social, economic and regional development. Individuals will have improved access to online services and education, whilst businesses will improve their existing relationships and forge new ones both within and beyond their national boundaries and will be given the opportunity to become players on a global stage. In addition, both governmental and non-governmental organisations looking to directly influence change can take advantage of the advanced broadband connections to improve their own communication and work. Improved broadband will help humanitarian aid in the regions that are not yet able to prosper through business or community improvements.
Individuals and businesses in developing countries will see a greater range of services and improved communications at their fingertips. Broadband delivers the promise of communications and this, in turn, brings with it the promise of development for people, businesses, governments, industry, regions and countries. The new fibre networks will help broadband further deliver on these promises and in turn bring more hope, more progress and a greater chance of prosperity for all concerned.