//Interview – Amadou Makhtar Fall

Interview – Amadou Makhtar Fall

Regulation, spectrum allocation and digital transition : Amadou Makhtar Fall’s interview for Connecting West Africa 2015

Amadou Makhtar Fall is a Telecoms & Broadcast regulatory affairs specialist with more than ten years’ experience in a major telco in Africa: he is the founder of publication ITMag and is head of Legal & Regulatory Monitoring at Orange-owned Sonatel, Senegal’s leading mobile operator. He is a regular participant at Connecting West Africa and will moderate this year’s keynote session.

We ask Amadou his thoughts on the main trends in the development of broadband networks in West Africa: “The relatively low penetration of xDSL in this area of the continent has somehow called for the development of high speed mobile networks” he says. “The future of broadband in West Africa will inevitably be based on 3G and 4G/LTE networks by taking advantage of the democratization of fixed 3G-4G-LTE / WiFi Set-top Boxes”.

This year may see a gear change in the broadband market, particularly in Senegal : “The appointed date of June 2015 for the transition from analog to digital TV as well as the possible allocation of 4G/LTE licenses can actually make 2015 a special year for the development of digital Senegal.”

Digital transition will potentially have a strong impact on West Africa’s telecoms and media sector. Telecom operators can potentially be more involved in content distribution and perhaps more importantly have strong expectations regarding “the allocation of ‘golden’ frequencies released through the transition, also called digital dividend”. On the media side, the digital transition will, according to Amadou, “completely mess up broadcasters’ business models. Some investments on satellite can be quickly outdated as they are incompatible with the distribution of DTT channels. That is why all broadcasters must be actively involved with the authorities in charge of the deployment of DTT.”

LTE will unquestionably play a major part of broadband development in the region. Several LTE launches have taken place and many operators are in testing phases, but licensing conditions and spectrum allocations are major questions:  “several grey areas persist on the conditions of allocation of these scarce resources: will auctions be organized or will they be beauty contests? Will 2G/3G frequency re-farming be allowed? All this remains to be determined by the regulatory authorities” says Amadou. “It would be very deplorable if 4G/LTE license allocations were to be done in a ‘dispersed’ way in some countries in the region, without any call for applications”.

The impact of regulation on access to affordable broadband cannot be underestimated and telecom operators need “improved regulatory visibility on the short/medium term” says Amadou; “As broadband is more and more about wireless infrastructure, which is very intensive in spectrum resources, an improvement on the cost of acquisition of these frequencies could allow operators to make access to broadband more affordable. The redistribution of spectrum resources from the digital dividend is also a big opportunity to boost mobile broadband”.

See the topics Amadou is most interested in at Connecting West Africa 2015 and where to find them in the programme:

• Infrastructure sharing : hear from Wilgon Tsibo, Group CTO of Azure Telecom on the various models, and join the subsequent roundtable debate
• Challenges and obstacles to the development of mobile broadband : follow the keynote sessions on broadband investment, regulation and LTE
• Mobile banking: check out the debate on monetising data in broadband and join the ‘idea generator’ interactive session on service innovation
• The transition to digital TV => digital dividend: check out the debate on Senegal’s market

Neolectum is proud tu support Connecting West Africa 2015
9-10 June 2015 • Dakar, Senegal