NewsSouthern AfricaInterview: Voice, Data and the future of telecoms- Irene Charnley


Posted on Tuesday, 15 December 2015 11:00

Interview: Voice, Data and the future of telecoms- Irene Charnley

By Oheneba Ama Nti Osei

Irene Charnley, Chief executive, Smile Telecoms Although mobile growth continues to register an unprecedented growth in the developing world, revenue from voice is stagnating. In terms of future growth, Irene Charnley, Chief executive of Smile Telecoms, sees data playing a major role. 

The Africa Report: Why do you think Africans are so hungry for data?

Irene Charnley: With the lack of fixed-line infrastructure in the developing world, mobile growth – just on voice – was so much faster, and it was unprecedented in the developing world. I mean, people were just hungry: 'Now I can speak 
to somebody anywhere, any time.' What has happened now is that people use different devices for different purposes, such as social media and streaming. The social media aspect is very huge and that's only been in the past three to five years. People are also streaming videos on YouTube, and this is all for entertainment purposes. For this, you need data, you need broadband. 

How has communication evolved over the years?

Five years ago, I wasn't using data. Now, 60% of everything I do I use data. But I still speak, I still have to speak to somebody. So, culturally speaking, in the developing world people still need to speak to each other. But from a generational gap, I think in 10 years you will have data growth. People will use voice, but they will see zero voice growth. It's going to be data. That's my view, and it's based on actual experiences. Voice will be around in the developing world, but we're moving towards data, and in 10 years this world will be completely different. 

Do you see data overtaking voice in terms of revenue in the next few years?

I think there's a place for it [voice] in the developing world and in Africa, but from a revenue point it's not growing [...]. It's single-digit growth. It's not double-digit growth in terms of revenue year on year. So voice certainly has a place, I absolutely agree. But in terms of future growth, in terms of revenue, it's got to come from somewhere else like data. I think the next generation just want to communicate using data. 

Are your prices attractive to customers?

What we've done at Smile is that we are not charging a premium for a premium product like we should. Our prices are fairly competitive, and it's in line with the market price. So, comparatively speaking, the prices are very good and it's competitive in terms of worldwide prices.

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