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VoLTE still a hard sale in Africa

VoLTE still a hard sale in Africa

Despite expectation around Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and its potential to disrupt the voice market in Kenya, local industry experts are sceptical about its overall influence.

"Finding the right incentives to drive behaviour change, particularly when it comes to technology, is extremely difficult. It's hard to see what the incentives are for most people to switch to VoLTE- most people have an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mentality about tech, and our mobile habits are especially habitual," said Boris Maguire, chief executive officer of Echo Mobile.

Echo Mobile uses technology, including voice and SMS, to help businesses gather input and feedback from customers.

Maguire believes that despite consumer complaints over the quality of voice calls, the market remains generally unconvinced about VoLTE.

"If VoLTE can truly improve battery life, then that would be a big sell to most Kenyans. Even better of course would be if VoLTE significantly reduced the amount of data required for things like video and VoIP calls. Battery life and data costs are things that people care about."

Maguire insists there is not sufficient demand for VoLTE due to the dominance of feature phones and lack of smartphones to accommodate the technology in Kenya and across most African markets.

"The reality is that most Kenyans use feature phones. A minority use smartphones, but even those are usually older models. So it may be that telcos are marketing VoLTE to the minority of Kenyans who have smartphones; within this group to a further minority of those who have phones that support the tech; and within this group to an even more miniscule minority of those who suffer from poor call quality and lack access to alternatives like WhatsApp."

According to the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) quarterly report for October to November 2018, there is still an increase in voice traffic.

"Voice traffic originating and terminating on the same network grew by 2.0 percent to register 12.9 billion minutes from 12.6 billion minutes reported in the previous quarter. Mobile voice traffic terminating to other mobile networks increased to 1.7 billion minutes from 1.6 billion minutes registered last quarter," the report stated.

Maguire believes it will be a slow change in technology for the continent as voice still has strong margins for telecoms despite the presence of OTT apps.


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