BARCELONA, Spain - Africa is poised for explosive subscriber growth, and mobile broadband services will play a significant part in Orange's operations in the market, said Marc Rennard, the France-based company's executive vice president for Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Rennard, who was speaking exclusively to FierceWireless:Europe at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, said Africa is a growth market for Orange, and predicted that mobile subscriber numbers in the region will double in the next two decades.
The market differs from Orange's European operations because most of the company's subscribers in Africa are pre-pay, and demand for internet services is being met more by mobile broadband than fixed networks, Rennard explained.
Africa is "a huge difference businesswise," Rennard said.
"[T]he key success factor in this industry is growth of population…Africa is 54 countries that is expected to move from 1 billion to 2 billion customers in a couple of decades. The most important thing is that those customers are there. Our next customers are the ones who are between 0 and 10 years old today," Rennard explained.
Mobile broadband plays a key role in Orange's African business. Rennard said subscribers in the region "want more and more internet, so they want more and more us. So, we are a lucky guy."
The demand for internet access has fuelled deployments of 3G networks in Africa, and LTE trials are already underway. "3G is done. Africans' demand for mobile broadband…is huge, due to Facebook, due to Google, communication needs, email," Rennard commented.
ABI Research recently forecast that LTE networks will cover half of Africa's population by 2018, and LTE subscriptions will surpass 50 million in the region by the same year.
Low-cost smartphones are just as important in meeting that demand for mobile internet, Rennard said. Africa is one of the first regions where Orange's latest own-brand LTE smartphone, the Orange Gova, will be launched, and the operator is also prioritising the region with the Nokia X, it announced.
"Internet in Africa is not coming from ADSL, not coming through the dongle, it is coming through the handset, through the smartphone. With dongles you need a laptop. It is expensive, you need battery; you need electricity. With the smartphone it is easier," Rennard explained.
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