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MTN recently created a new branch within the group dedicated to providing a connected digital life dubbed MTN GlobalConnect. In an interview with Telecom Review, Frederic Schepens, CEO of MTN GlobalConnect, introduced GlobalConnect services and its corporate goals in addition to discussing other key topics.

Why did MTN decide to create MTN GlobalConnect?

MTN GlobalConnect was created to centralize MTN’s wholesale business which previously was scattered across the Group. This has significantly increased the quality of our services, helped us achieve economies of scale and develop new products and positioned MTN GlobalConnect as a partner of choice for connectivity services in Africa and the Middle East.

Our main ingredients are the development of the largest infrastructure, an entrepreneurial approach and a team of experts very close to all customers.

Why is MTN GlobalConnect committed to providing a connected digital life to everyone?

“Everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life” is at the heart of the activities of the MTN Group, which owns licenses in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East with more than 236 million subscribers. MTN GlobalConnect is the new wholesale branch of MTN Group. It is a key catalyst supporting local activities in the different countries where we are present to satisfy external customers looking for the best gateway to start or grow their business in Africa and the Middle East.

Between 2018 and 2021, the population in the countries where MTN is present will grow from 670 million to 717 million individuals. Smartphone penetration will increase from 30 to 55% among a population 60% of which is under 24 years old. The quality of internet access is therefore crucial to support socio-economic development and the many new opportunities that arise at all levels of society. MTN GlobalConnect works tirelessly to provide connectivity as a launch pad for new initiatives as well as solutions to existing problems.

As a new business branch of MTN Group, what services do you offer?

Our services can be presented into two main categories, fixed connectivity services and international mobile services such as interconnection (voice), roaming, messaging and value-added services.

In fixed connectivity, we offer a wide range of products such as national and metropolitan backbones on the largest network infrastructure in Africa. We own more than 100,000 km of fiber and more than 10,000 km are under construction to expand this core backbone to connect most African countries. This allows mobile operators and ISPs to complete the backhauling of their base stations and aggregation points.

Our solid MTN.net and IP/MPLS networks include:

  •                   47 multinational points of presence;
  •                   29 countries in Africa and the Middle East;
  •                  15 submarine cables (WACS ACE ...);
  •                   More than 100,000 km of national and metropolitan fiber network;
  •                   31 multinational Network-to-Network interfaces facilitating connectivity to global networks;
  •                  A backbone with a capacity greater than 3Tbps;
  •                   Peering with leading content providers as well as optimized IP Transit.

In mobile business, we launched Y’elloConnect Hubs, our one-stop-shop solutions for international signaling, voice, messaging and roaming.

Being a late entrant, the advantage is that we leveraged the latest technologies, the services that create a lot of value for the MTN entities in our different countries as well as our partners and all the external companies seeking to benefit from growing opportunities in the Middle East and Africa.

What mission are you trying to pursue?

MTN GlobalConnect has a significantly critical mission which is to ensure that everyone is connected securely and to ensure that the telecommunications channels are available and accessible in the Middle East and on the African continent.

What are the measures you take to ensure a complete protection of your network?

Last year, our teams worked tirelessly to secure our international network, not only from attacks and hackers with our DDos filters, but also from the illegal Internet content, filtering the URLs on our gateways that lead to international web content related to violence against children.

Can you tell us more about the recently launched Y’elloConnect SMS Hub service?

In December 2018, less than 4 months after the call for tenders, our first customers were active on our brand new Y’elloConnect SMS Hub. This is a real record that, on the one hand, demonstrates our entrepreneurial energy and on the other hand, shows our very good understanding of our customers’ needs.

It is the largest messaging platform in Africa and the Middle East providing access to more than 236 million mobile users through a single contract.

Whether to authenticate the identity of a user, send marketing messages, appointment reminders, notifications ... Y’elloConnect Hub enhances the value of our customers’ activities. The platform manages the flow of messages to offer a very high successful delivery rate. In addition, only messages that are actually delivered are billed.

By using the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub, security in terms of advanced protection against fraud and spoofing is guaranteed. A dedicated team manages our customers and provides the best information to all interested parties in order to maximize a very good value for money.

You can also access a web portal to gain insight into your activities and track your end-to-end messages of the process.

The figures confirm the appeal of Y’elloConnect since we have already delivered more than 260 million SMS during the first 5 months of the year only!

How does your new Y’elloConnect SMS Hub service work exactly? How do you choose the right audience to receive SMS?

The Y’elloConnect SMS Hub is the largest platform in Africa and the Middle East that centralizes and manages the sending of SMS to corporate customers through a high quality interconnection with MTN Group. The Hub also protects MTN customers from unsolicited messages.

The solution, which complies with the GSMA Open Connectivity standards, is very simple for customers (operators, SMS aggregators as well as businesses) thanks to a single connection and a single contract.

Y’elloConnect SMS Hub facilitates incoming and outgoing Person-to-Person (P2P) and Application-to-Person (A2P) international SMS traffic to MTN Group operators, providing direct access to more than 236 million mobile users. The Hub supports SMS exchange through the use of all major text messaging protocols.

A dedicated team supports our partner clients, offering a higher reception rate. It goes without saying that billing is linked to the reception of SMS which can be followed almost in real time via a web portal.

In your opinion, how do the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning help you preserve and even increase your customers’ satisfaction level?

The satisfaction of our customers is built on the combination of the human factor (the quality of the relationship), but also the quality of the services offered and a judicious choice of the technologies used.

Being one of the last players to enter the market, we can benefit more easily from the latest technologies.

We have started a digital journey to automate processes to spare more time for our customers whether internal (MTN group) or external. It also allows us to offer new services and always meet the needs of customers.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning help improve customer satisfaction, mainly at two levels: more precision in terms of knowledge of the customer experience and more proactivity in the improvements to come that drive our permanent quest to deliver the best quality.

What are the challenges you face in the MEA region?

The region represents immense opportunities and its residents must be able to access digital with the services currently available and which allow to increase the quality and the creation of new activities. In some countries in the region, development is going well. However, for geopolitical reasons, we do not have the same means everywhere.

We hope that, over time, it will evolve favorably. Once again, every citizen deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. From our side, we are ready!

You mentioned that sometimes you do not have the same means everywhere to allow citizens to access digital services. How do you counter this challenge?

In some countries, international sanctions prevent us from providing the people with all the opportunities of a modern connected life. Unfortunately, this is out of our control. Nevertheless, as indicated, we are preparing ourselves to be able to provide the best services as soon as we are given the opportunity.

What are you aiming to achieve in the remainder of 2019?

We will continue to deploy more than 10,000 km of fiber in the East, West and South Africa, to solidify our leadership position with the largest fiber network in Africa.

We will launch the Y’elloConnect Roaming Hub which will allow better management of our roaming activities as well as the possibility of launching new services.

New possibilities will enrich the Y’elloConnect SMS Hub such as the Person-to-Application service (a mobile user who sends SMS to applications). Coupled with the Application-to-Person service (an application that sends SMS to a mobile user) which is already very successful, this will provide our partner customers with a real interaction between consumers/citizens and brands, public services and societies in general.

We are a young company in a big group. We can therefore benefit from the latest technologies. In an effort to offer more and always better, we work tirelessly on digitalization and automation. This will allow us to focus even more on what’s mostly important: the satisfaction of our customers and the development of their business.

In 2018, our first year on the market, we achieved excellent scores on customer satisfaction.

We strive to ensure that our clients, whom we all consider to be partners, whether they are internal (local operators and other departments of the MTN group) or external (new or existing) are very satisfied with our services and the relationships that they built with MTN GlobalConnect. We bring them both great opportunities for their activities in Africa and /or the Middle East, a different experience through the quality of the relationships we have with them, as well as access to more than 236 million subscribers of the MTN group. That's why we are proud of our slogan “Take your ambitions further”.

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