Monday, 18 November 2019

Digicel: “OTTs should no longer be allowed to use our expensive infrastructure for free”

Jayne Brooks
Tuesday 29 October 19

CEO Nikima Royer told Total Telecom Congress that operators, regulators and OTTs all have a part to play – and pay – in connecting the 3.7 billion unconnected

Operators are at a crossroads and risk becoming little more than a utility as a result of OTT giants – who should no longer be allowed to use telcos’ expensive infrastructure for free, the CEO of Digicel said today. Speaking at Total Telecom Congress, Nikima Royer warned operators that they need to ‘differentiate or die’ as consumers become more reliant on digital services and ARPUs and revenues continue to decline despite &lsquo…

Operators are at a crossroads and risk becoming little more than a utility as a result of OTT giants – who should no longer be allowed to use telcos’ expensive infrastructure for free, the CEO of Digicel said today.

Speaking at Total Telecom Congress, Nikima Royer warned operators that they need to ‘differentiate or die’ as consumers become more reliant on digital services and ARPUs and revenues continue to decline despite ‘tremendous’ traffic growth.

“Differentiate or die sounds really extreme – however, that’s really where we are right now. We are at a crossroads where we need to become more relevant for our consumers or run the risk of becoming nothing more than a utility,” she said. “The tech giants and OTTs are basically out to eat everything we have to offer. They have displaced our industry and become important to our consumers, leaving us to be mothing more than a dialler. The industry has witnessed a decline in ARPUs and revenues despite having seen tremendous traffic growth. The industry’s share of profit margin continues to diminish tremendously while we see the OTTs and the tech giants continue to grow.”

Explaining what this means for operators, Royer said: “We need to differentiate or die. And with that, digital strategy is on everyone’s agenda – the world is online today and that continues to accelerate.”

According to Royer, operators need to differentiate by reinventing their core business models, rather than making surface changes. Personalisation is also important, with Royer calling on operators to move away from mass messaging towards more personalised communications, also highlighting that consumers prefer to use digital platforms.

“Customers like to hear their names, they like the personal touch so if we are going to offer a face-to-face then it makes sense that we do so in the digital space,” she said. “Operators are building world-class apps that allow consumers to manage their end-to-end experiences – we need to continue moving that thread, pulling on that thread and innovating in different segments.”

Royer went on to outline how Digicel has addressed this by launching new apps, with a focus on content and personalised experience in sports, music and mobile money. However, said Royer, the big opportunity is about connecting the unconnected. 

“There are 3.7 billion people that are not connected to the Internet,” she continued. “However, it is important that every single entity within that space including the regulators and including the OTTs pay and play their part in continuing to innovate. OTTs should no longer be allowed to utilise our extensive, expensive infrastructure for free.”

In addition to new services and apps, Digicel is also building a data analytics platform and revamping its IT stack. This follows its upgrades to full fibre and 4G LTE in Dominica, following two Category 5 hurricanes in 2017 which Royer said saw five markets devastated.

Concluding her presentation, Royer advised operators looking to advance their journeys to become digital operators to follow Digicel’s lead by “keeping it digital, keeping it simple and keeping it customer centric.”

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