Vodafone: How to Tackle the Challenges of Business in Emerging Markets

Jan Geldmacher, CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise
- Technology - Jan 30, 2015

When it comes to global economics, uncertainty is about the only certainty businesses can prepare for. From future shocks to the Eurozone, to shifts in global economic power or unexpected environmental events, multi-nationals need to be ready to explore new markets and scale-up or adjust operations at any given time.

With European economies on the slow road to recovery, businesses are looking to emerging countries the east and south for new opportunities.

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If businesses are going to fully realise the potential of these markets, however, they need reliable fixed, mobile and mobility capabilities to empower their people with information and data, improve their operations and deliver the best possible customer experience. Establishing this requisite communications infrastructure can be easier said than done in markets where connected technologies are at different stages of maturity.

Navigating complex infrastructure landscapes

Emerging markets come with their own unique challenges. Take Africa.  The continent is made up of more than 50 countries, each with distinct regulatory environments, historical backgrounds and distinct language, political and cultural differences. The technological infrastructure is just as diverse.

Many African markets, are seen as being challenged in terms of traditional terrestrial communications – according to 2014 Frost & Sullivan research fixed-line communication services only hold a 3.6 percent share of Africa's total telecoms market. But governments are looking to cross this infrastructure divide through mobile and fibre-optic broadband solutions, while sub-sea fibre optic cables are beginning to supply super-fast broadband to regions such as Kenya, giving rise to the region’s mobile middle class.

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Across the continent as a whole, coverage is an issue in some of Africa’s less technologically developed markets. As such, it is important for businesses to balance technological infrastructure with potential intermittent power supplies to mitigate network service delivery to customers. Multi-national organisations looking to realise their expansion ambitions need to therefore know how to overcome these infrastructure challenges.

Steps for establishing consistent communications

1. Consolidate communications

Entering new markets can easily lead to a tangled web of suppliers, contracts, billing and support, as fixed line, fixed data mobile voice, mobile data and broadband connectivity are established. And 67 percent of multinationals agree that having multiple platforms, networks and suppliers can make it hard for businesses to provide effective communications. This becomes even more difficult to manage in markets where regulations, languages and cultures are diverse.  Consolidating communications into one total communications services supplier under one contract and with one master service agreement can help to alleviate the pain of country-by-country negotiation. This provides businesses with a consistent experience and better control of communications costs and security.

2. Converge fixed and mobile

When moving into more technically advanced markets with readily available broadband connectivity, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) provides businesses with an opportunity to simplify communications and become more responsive. FMC works by connecting fixed and wireless networks with a single number and voicemail and simple transfers between desk, fixed or mobile devices. This removes the physical constraints of a landline and means savings, convenience and mobility, not to mention improved productivity for the business.

3. Consider alternatives

In developed markets most communications needs can be met with optical fibre connections or standard 3G and 4G networks. But in developing markets, where infrastructure is lacking and fibre optic connectivity is still in its infancy, satellite can be used as a back-up or temporary fix to support critical infrastructure and services.  Although satellite has been used for decades it is still often the best technology for connecting the most remote or unconnected parts of the globe, both simply and quickly.

Seizing the window of opportunity

It’s hard to say for certain what the global economy will look like twenty years from now. Western economies could make a full recovery. Or there could be a global economic power shift that sees the likes of China and India become the most powerful economies in the world.

Businesses will need to be ready to adapt to unforeseen markets conditions and need confidence in their ability to establish reliable communications regardless of the market they are operating in. The simplest way to achieve this is to identify a total communications service provider that can negotiate and navigate the regulatory and technological complexities for them. This empowers the business to focus on core competencies, explore revenue opportunities and achieve its ambitions.

By Jan Geldmacher, CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise 

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