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Global IT product and service provider, Elitecore, has over 150 network deployments worldwide for 59 service providers in more than 40 countries. Telecom Review sat down with Akshat Joshi, VP - WiFi Business, Sterlite Tech - Elitecore, to discuss trends and WiFi in the African market.

Can you start by telling us about the African wireless market?
Since the past few years, African telecommunication markets have undergone substantial transformations. Transformation today means fulfilling the growing demand for digital services and innovation with data connectivity over fixed, mobile and WiFi data networks. But for a decade, it has been observed that mobile voice services have dominated operator revenues across the region. But, looking at today's accelerated growth in mobile data revenues, data will soon overtake voice revenues and is predicted to reach $51 billion by 2020 (source: GSMA). Moreover, with the increase of mobile subscriptions to greater than 1 billion by 2016, the growing potential of 4G/LTE and WiFi hotspot networks growth which has increased 5331% from 2013 (source: ipass) in that region, the focus has turned to data monetization and assurance of delivering seamless high speed data connectivity, either as standalone WiFi services or in convergence with existing mobile services along with enhanced experience.

How has WiFi adoption been in the African region?
Escalating demand for wireless data is shaping the demand for public WiFi in Africa, especially Sub-Sahara. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of hotspots in Africa, and at a faster pace as compared to other countries. Traditionally, internet service providers and specialist WiFi providers have dominated the deployment of WiFi hotspots in Sub-Saharan Africa, while mobile operators have previously avoided migration due to concerns of it cannibalising mobile data revenues. There are, however, increasing signs of operators turning to WiFi as an alternative opportunity to generate revenue or boost service quality with adoption and launch of next generation WiFi services including WiFi calling, LTE interworking, intelligent offload and much more.

What trends or dynamics exist in Africa that you are not seeing in other regions?
• In Africa, the trend is towards providing citizens with free WiFi in order to boost economic activity and education. Hence, there has been an adoption of rolling out WiFi across all public places. Also, location owners, from small café owners to hotels, are showing interest in offering public WiFi services at their venues; where, WiFi becomes a major mode of attraction and helps them to boost their business.
• Operators are actively initiating WiFi deployments. Along with operators nowadays, internet access providers seek to grow a significant opportunity in providing desperately-needed last-mile and local backhaul, increase hotspot coverage, and build carrier WiFi networks from which to offer wholesale and retail services. This is largely adopted in Africa as compared to other countries.
• Moreover, governments are aware that WiFi can make quick wins to increase broadband penetration and economic growth, and are mindful of the view that internet access may be seen as a fundamental human right and that WiFi forms a powerful foundation for driving universal service objectives, both in terms of regulatory frameworks and delivery. Hence, there has been in evolution of several megacities into smart cities, and Sub-Saharan Africa is laying the foundation for the adoption of smart building and smart grid solutions across the continent.
• Increase in 4G connectivity in South Africa will take forward seamless interworking between LTE-WiFi facilitating seamless experience to users.

How has been Elitecore's WiFi deployment experience in Africa?
Elitecore has a great presence in the African market and operates with 15 WiFi deployments across 14 African countries. With more than a decade of proven success in Africa, Elitecore's association to the telcos in that region and its expertise in enabling telecom solutions has empowered its clients with innovative next generation services to realize rapid service innovation and network excellence over competitors.

With exceptional regional and domain knowledge, Elitecore has aligned it offerings and product development as per regional demand. Elitecore caters to the rising demand of hotspot WiFi and mobile data offload in Africa through its modular and flexible WiFi service management platform (SMP) and monetization solution, as per operator needs, thus fulfilling the need and ambition to realize the carrier WiFi model efficiently. Elitecore understands the regional demand of operators to rollout WiFi services and offers solutions that can enable them to launch bundled 3G and WiFi plans, allows walk-in users through voucher-based WiFi access at hotspots like cafes, airports, lounges, universities.

Elitecore's flexible and agile SMP can easily be upgraded to help operators rollout next generation services and extend their reach to newer segments. The future-ready platform enables operators to enhance revenues through its innovative offerings including WiFi monetization solutions comprising of monetization server, enhanced mobile app for android and iOS, ANDSF server and advertisement server thus delivering differential business cases for public WiFi rollouts, mobile data offload, smart city initiatives, WiFi calling, roaming services, LTE-WiFi interworking, location-based services, analytics and much more.

Why do you think Elitecore has been so successful in Africa?
• With the technology advancement, it is increasingly important for operators to bring innovation to market faster and to be able to segment data offers at differentiated costs in order to maintain market leadership, gain customer reliability and generate quick return on investment (ROI) with new revenue opportunities. Elitecore WiFi SMP is the answer to all of them.

• As an end-to-end solution provider, Elitecore leverages over 15 years of organizational expertise in delivering OSS & BSS solutions, solution design, consulting and systems integration to deliver comprehensive solutions for African network operators and their customers. Below are a few factors which make Elitecore a successful WiFi provider across Africa:

• Elitecore offers strong and rich experience in successful WiFi rollouts across the globe and is one of the market leaders with 40+ Tier 1 SP WiFi deployments, and 2500 best of its deployments for ISP and hotspots worldwide. Elitecore's WiFi experience has enabled the telcos in Africa to successfully rollout services

• Moreover, Elitecore easily understands the operator's requirements and provides offerings as per operator and market demand, platform capability to scale in future without any complex advancements and support for next generation services makes it a most preferable platform

• Elitecore WiFi service management platform richness - pre-integrated and modular platform with maximum number of innovative SP WiFi business models and largest number of use cases off-the-shelf

• Elitecore - the front-runners in next generation SP WiFi solutions has highest number of integrations and proven interoperability with the top multi vendors' equipment and WiFi partner ecosystems worldwide which has helped Elitecore in enabling operators to seamless integrate existing IT and mobile core with SMP, reduced efforts and capex

• Elitecore has a flexible and agile product portfolio all geared to support the operators to capitalize on growing demand for next generation public WiFi services, carrier WiFi offload and WiFi monetization through a converged platform

• Elitecore's unique expertise in its WiFi offerings enable service providers with operational excellence, revenue assurance as well as help them define right strategies to address their complex business challenges

• Comprehensive and flexible platform with excellent support structure, capable of fulfilling access to billing to monetization through a single platform

• Strong professional services and delivery team in every region for faster time to delivery of services enabling quick roll out for operators

• Capability for smooth integration for platform extension to launch monetization solution including monetization server, enhanced mobile app for android and iOS, ANDSF server and advertisement server. It is the perfect fit for service providers enabling them to cater across various segments like carriers, cable MSOs, ISPs, other non-telcos and monetize from their WiFi offerings and deliver innovative use cases across different business verticals. Public venues, enterprises, residences, hospitality, municipalities, stadiums, universities, malls etc., thus ensuring faster time-to-market, offer service differentiation and enhance service offerings.