Vodacom Business Africa is placing Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services expansion at the heart of plans to grow its market share in the continent. By Gugu Lourie
M2M services are also referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) – a concept of connecting devices to the internet ranging from refrigerators, geysers and smart electricity meters to coffee makers – in such a way that they communicate without the need of human intervention.
Vodacom Business Africa, which operates in various African countries, is confident of more growth opportunities for M2M in Africa.
The global ICT research firm IDC says that while M2M opportunities may be limited across Africa, significant potential for growth exists, particularly in respect to the deployment of energy, utility, and security services.
IDC says in a recent study that the more mature markets of South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria are leading the charge with M2M technology being used in transportation and retail verticals to deliver services such as fleet management, asset tracking, retail point of sale (POS), and pay-as-you-go insurance.
But M2M solutions could also be used to fight diseases and help in reducing deaths from diseases such as diabetes.
Vuyani Jarana, CEO of Vodacom Business, told TechFinancials.co.za that Vodacom Business Africa was adopting a demand-led pan-African expansion strategy. It was implementing services such as M2M and cloud, where the demands arise.
Jarana said that the company has built out capability to accelerate M2M in Tanzania, the DRC, Mozambique, Lesotho, Nigeria and Zambia, leveraging the Vodafone Global Data Service Platform.
“This platform lets customers manage their connected M2M deployments through centrally hosted, secure self-service platform,” says Jarana.
“It enables companies to get authentication, access control and near real-time usage and management of deployed SIMS on any Vodacom or Vodacom partner network anywhere in the world,”
The South African-based enterprise arm of Vodacom, owned by British mobile giant Vodafone, is among the most prominent companies servicing enterprises in Africa.
Vodacom Business Africa contributed 18% to Vodacom Group’s service revenue for the year to end-March 2015. It is aiming to increase its contribution to 30% in the next three years. Vodacom, which has a R200 billion market capitalisation, generated R16 billion in revenues for the quarter ended-June 2015.
Vodacom Business Africa provides total communications – including virtual private networks, converged mobile and fixed line access as well as cloud services – to enterprises across the continent. The enterprises include Aveng, Barclays, DHL, Ecobank, FirstRand, Naspers, Sasol and Thomson Reuters.
Jarana, who was appointed in 2012, said Vodacom Business has established significant M2M offerings for the agriculture and healthcare industries across Africa.
He said the enterprise arm of Vodacom is seeing growth in demand for M2M solutions in the utilities, automotive and retail sectors.
The firm has seen acceleration in utilities space of interest in smart meter solutions for water and electricity, and in the automotive there is demand for the connected car and the retail sector there is a growing need for in-store digital signage, smart payment systems and supply chain optimization.
Vodacom Business will leverage Vodafone’s position as the global market leader in M2M and its resources in Africa.
This will include its dedicated M2M platform to expand this offering across the continent.
In addition Vodacom Business will leverage XLink’s expert capabilities, scalable connectivity and customised solutions in point-of-sale communication in 12 African countries including SA, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It also has plans to expand its footprint in the region. It sells products that offer efficiencies through automation enabled via M2M solutions.
“M2M brings significant benefits to the industries that use it and thus, these markets are ready to implement M2M and experience the benefits that this technology has to offer,” says Jarana. “For example, we have rolled out some of our healthcare offerings to several countries across the continent and the communities have seen significant benefits as a result.
“Vodacom Business’ initial focus was investing to establish quality infrastructure; now we are focused on ensuring that we have the right people in our markets who understand the geographies, culture, languages and the third-party networks. We want to enable multinationals to expand confidently on the continent.”