The 4G effect: the need for speed
by Vincenzo Nesci
In Algeria, big things are going on in digital. Under the government’s e-Algerie plan, public services, businesses and the population at large will get connected, with high speed fiber networks and 4G LTE as the foundation. It’s a big push forward that aims to modernize telecommunications in Algeria, creating greater digital access and using technology to steer the country forward towards a new, resilient, knowledge-based economy.
As part of the plan, Djezzy was one of three companies recently awarded a license to build and operate 4G LTE services. Months of hard work from the teams in Algeria and internationally have brought us to this point, which, along with finalizing the rollout of 3G in 2016, will consolidate Djezzy’s position in the Algerian market and build further on our heritage as a technology pioneer. As a member of the VimpelCom Group, Djezzy has access to both global experience and specialist local knowledge, and as VimpelCom pushes forward with its digital leadership strategy, we’ll see connectivity improvements taking place across the Group’s footprint. Just last month in Kyrgyzstan, Beeline switched on 4G LTE for the first customers. Connectivity across the Group will only get stronger.
So, what will happen when Algeria makes the switch to 4G? For some, it will mean a faster, more reliable connection, while others will be online for the very first time. At its most basic, it’s all about speed: both downloads and uploads are faster with 4G, enabling services where speed makes all the difference. Think HD streaming, media sharing, and services that are currently in their infancy, like virtual reality (VR).
But to understand the true significance of 4G, we need to take a step back. VimpelCom’s focus is on emerging markets, where having access to the internet is more likely to be synonymous with owning a smartphone. If you live in Pakistan, you may well be reading this on your mobile, where only 11% of people have a fixed line connection but 28% (and rising) have mobile internet access. It’s a similar story in Bangladesh and it’s a trend that’s set to continue.
It’s no secret that VimpelCom wants to bring data services to more customers. Mobile data is a growing part of our business in Algeria and across the Group, and it will be core to our continuing success in the months and years ahead. But the real value is not just in the simple transaction of making a connection, but in the opportunities each connection opens up. Entertainment, ecommerce, health, finance, education, and information will be unlocked for a new wave of customers.
Previous experience across the Group indicates that there’s a promising demand for online services. When 4G was introduced in Georgia, data usage increased almost seven-fold. Outside of the business, we hear the same story. GSMA found that consumers in emerging markets are more willing to pay for 4G services compared to those in mature markets.
The development opportunity is also clear. World Economic Forum founder, Klaus Schwab, spoke of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, a model that resonates strongly at VimpelCom. We are living at a time of unprecedented change in the way we live, work, and connect. It’s happening globally, it’s happening now, and it’s happening largely on mobile connected devices.
And importantly, we are excited to support the creation of an ecosystem of application developers and mobile entrepreneurs who will be our partners and suppliers, and who will help us adapt VimpelCom’s worldwide experience to the reality of Algeria. This is something our partner, the National Investment Fund (FNI) expects as a natural outcome of our public-private partnership which has potential to be a great example of cooperation between an international Group and an important local institutional investor.
Of course, there’s still work to be done. Globally, the gap between urban and rural populations is still an issue, though much less so than it was when connections relied on fixed-line infrastructure. Smart devices remain expensive and out of reach for many, although this is changing too.
Countries like Algeria have the opportunity to skip decades of infrastructure development and go straight to the technology that’s performing globally. And while it’s still not a level playing field, we’re building the foundations to empower everyone to harness the power of technology, support a new generation of digital entrepreneurs, and open doors to innovation that will have global implications. Algeria is on the edge of a technological transformation. And at Djezzy and VimpelCom, we are excited to have front-row seats.