Taking a longer-term perspective: Some views on the future

Interview with Yolanda Cuba – Chief Officer: Strategy and New Business

Yolanda Cuba

Q The IT and telecoms sector is subject to high levels of volatility and has significant potential for disruptive innovation. Looking to the future, what are some of the key trends that you see will have a bearing on Vodacom’s current business model?

A Mobile network operators (MNOs) of the future will have to choose whether they are ‘infrastructure-only’ players, or whether they will be providing mobile and related services as well. The current business models of current MNOs are being increasingly disrupted at both an infrastructure and service level. In the future, one can envisage that Google’s Project Loon (balloon-powered Internet service provision) and other non-traditional infrastructure players being able to provide both long-haul and last-mile digital services.

As innovation increases and the number of players increases, the real game will be won on services and customer loyalty. Those who can create ecosystems that are relevant and sustainable will win.

The future lies in data. To win, you have to make it easier for people to analyse, store and consume data. This will require an increase in investment and intelligent infrastructure so that we can scale and adapt with our customer needs.

Q How is Vodacom positioning itself in response to these trends?

A We are continuing to invest in our infrastructure to make it more flexible and agile. We are also increasingly investing in the provision of digital services. We have invested in data centres and continue to do so.

We are also maintaining a very strong focus on customer excellence. In the last year, we implemented our CARE programme that is designed to ensure we understand and anticipate our customers’ requirements. We have also moved to a segmentation of our customers in clusters that are insight-led instead of spend-led. This drive to an insight-driven organisation should bring us closer to our current and potential customers and should make us much more responsive to the potential changes across the consumer sector.

Q Taking a longer-term perspective, how might you imagine Vodacom’s business ten years from now?

A I foresee Vodacom as an integrated total communications business that will be touching every part of one’s personal and work life from the time you wake up till you go to sleep. To be relevant in such a future, Vodacom will be active in both the infrastructure and services areas. At the infrastructure level, Vodacom will continue to be a telecommunications market leader, but with a much expanded network portfolio, covering not just mobile communications but also fixed and other services. The ‘Internet of Things’, a huge growth area for Vodacom, will require specialised networks and core systems, so this will be an area of particular importance. I believe that virtualisation will transform the networks and systems as we currently know them, allowing Vodacom to deliver more agile and cost-effective services across all our operations.

At the Services level, Vodacom will be providing a wider suite of services to both its Consumer and Enterprise markets. These services will range from traditional telecommunications, such as voice and data, to more specialised services such as video, security, smart homes and cities, health and financial services. In the Enterprise space, convergence will ensure Vodacom will be intimately involved in all areas of the small, medium and large enterprises, delivering a suite of telecommunications and other virtualised services.