Local and international Cisco executives joined those from the top sub-Saharan service providers at the South African game resort of Kwa-Maritane on November 15 – 16 for Connections Africa 2004. This annual event is seen by both Cisco and service providers as the ideal opportunity to discuss critical and important issues relevant to the service provider market throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Topics under discussion at the event included next generation networks, Cisco’s strategy for service providers, profitable IP service creation, mobile operator strategy, Cisco Transformational Services, the Cisco Mobile Exchange and Radio Access Networks (RAN).

Insightful case studies were also presented by Telkom South Africa, MTN Nigeria and the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), all of whom use Cisco networking solutions as a key part of their infrastructures.

The current landscape provides Cisco with a perfect opportunity to build on its long-term commitment to the service provider market and to reach the company’s goal of growing revenue in service providers dramatically. To get there, Cisco has developed a twofold mission to help them meet the needs of their customers, stay competitive and thrive in today’s market. First, Cisco is helping service providers develop, deploy and market new revenue generating data services based on IP. Second, Cisco is helping them evolve their network infrastructure to reduce operating expenses and support the delivery of these new revenue generating services.

According to Mark Baptiste, Cisco’s regional sales manager for service providers, this is a clear sign of how important Cisco considers this market to be. “These are exciting times for the African continent as a whole with regard to the development that we at Cisco see in the service provider space. There is the potential for vast expansion with Africa really growing exponentially as countries leapfrog technologically.

“The growth areas are convergence, mobility and the explosion of broadband services. Ultimately what these offer is exactly what service providers are looking for: new revenue streams and a reduction in operating expenditure. Reducing expenditure will come through convergence and that will in turn lead to new revenue streams as a result of the new services which can be run on top of a converged network. Many African service providers are now at the point where they have to make a decision about their future direction - privatisation is coming and for many African service providers this is a great way to accelerate their business.”

According to Peter Retief, operations executive for Africa at Business Connexion, which implemented the recent ETC overhaul, Cisco’s involvement in the telecommunications industry has never been stronger. “This kind of conference demonstrates that Cisco is now a major player in the next generation networks (NGN) arena of the service provider industry,” he said.