Why is Orange so confident of multi-service operator strategy?

French telecommunications firm Orange plans to aggressively pursue its objective to evolve from a connectivity provider to a multi-services operator in 2019, and thereby support digital transformation in Africa.

Company spokesperson Elisabeth Medou Badang said, "Historically, our predominant business was voice calling. This has now been replaced by data and services. In a multi-SIM market, developing additional services is a way to build customer loyalty."

Networks and connectivity remains the company's bread-and-butter business. Badang said that deploying, operating and maintaining these networks is key to every digital experience.

"We invest one billion Euros every year in the region ... our 2G/3G networks serve twenty countries in the MEA region and provide connectivity to nearly 120 million customers. 4G is now available in 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East, with 15 million customers to date. We will continue to explore the potential of this technology, while awaiting the arrival of 5G."

Although the company does not anticipate the deployment of 5G in MEA in early 2019, it is actively participating in discussion regarding the standardisation of this technology.

Orange's plan to achieve multi-service operator status is to leverage what it describes as its "established strengths", including a 900,000 distributor-strong network and 40 million Orange Money customers in 17 countries.

"We are developing all of our services in partnership with public and private stakeholders , and are confident that, by 2030, the revenue from these services will be equal to – or even greater than – revenue from connectivity," Badang added.

At AfricaCom hosted in Cape Town in November 2018, the company outlined its strategy for the continent and emphasised innovations it says will help to "democratise access to smartphones, encourage e-education and support the start-up ecosystem."

The company said it is estimated that at least 660 million Africans (against 336 million in 2016) will be equipped with a smartphone by 2020.

It has announced a partnership with KaiOS Technologies "to democratise access to digital services in Africa" and stated that as of the beginning of 2019, Orange customers in Africa will have access to a new category of smart feature phones powered by KaiOS.

The first product to launch will be a 3G smart feature phone, followed by a 4G version later next year.

The value proposition, according to Orange, is the first time availability of Google services (including Youtube, Google Maps, Google Search and Google Assistant) on entry level devices.

Orange believes this alliance, along with its mobile payment service Orange Money and its continued investment in mobile internet coverage (14 countries with 4G), will enable the telco to leverage anticipated growth in the mobile space.