In an interview with Telecom Review, Frederic Schepens, CEO, MTN GlobalConnect explains how the company is dealing with the repercussions of COVID-19 on the industry and highlighted what he considered as the main pillar of success in light of the new normal.
COVID-19 has had its negative impact on all industries, but it was also considered an opportunity for some. Do you consider that the pandemic allowed you to prove your leadership in the market?
Telecommunication services were characterised as essential in the early days of the pandemic keeping people connected wherever they are in the world with their loved ones, and we saw a massive increase in virtual conferencing for both business and personal. The pandemic has served as an eye-opener. Access to telecommunication services was heightened due to its reliance on network services. Before the pandemic we had many measures in place to keep our network up and running but during the pandemic, there is an extra social responsibility we now feel.
As a result, we have implemented various contingency plans for unwanted network failures that strengthen our resilience and factor in our growth plan as a wholesale infrastructure company. This has made us even more passionate about leading in Pan-African infrastructure because we know the African needs so well. We want to give everyone the ability to live a connected life. In a social construct that connection is truly essential for people feeling isolated by the pandemic for one reason or another.
What are the gaps that this crisis has put under the spotlight? What role can MTN GlobalConnect play to fill those gaps?
The pandemic highlighted a more urgent need for broadband across Africa. Governments, regulators and other stakeholders need to facilitate the expansion of networks and services so that citizens can enjoy the benefits of a modern connected life. Modern digital services are data hungry and the best way to secure these applications to people is to invest in the infrastructure on a national and regional level. That is how MTN GlobalConnect’s Pan-African focus emerged. We know where to look capitalising on our African footprint and what to do, and that is driving our growth plan. We are connecting the unconnected and increasing the resilience of our network as well.
In your opinion, what are the pillars of a successful strategy in light of the new normal?
The most prominent pillar of success that stands out in the new normal is resilience. The quality and resilience of a network and its services coupled with the right pricing make consistent and reliable connectivity possible and that is what the end-product should be – reliable. Resilience is something that is needed in the team now more than ever. We can’t control external factors like the socioeconomical changes we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead we must look internally and find new ways of working together that are often out of our comfort zone but still be committed to reaching the end goal. That is the kind of team resilience we need. The MTN GlobalConnect wholesale eco-system has evolved. We operate with an agile mindset because we must be highly responsive and we are constantly building a stronger and more resilient network, and that requires a resilient team that is flexible and committed to achieve that.