ITXC'S NEWLY APPOINTED NDI TOWO ON NEW MARKETS
Who have you already signed up in the region?
It’s a region we’ve been very active in. Publicly announced customers include TeleOne in Zimbabwe and Telkom in South Africa. Others are not yet announced.
Why open an office in South Africa?
We have a solid business presence that justifies the investment. Deregulation is alive and kicking in the region but comes in fits and starts. We’re trying to align our resources more with our geographic presence, particularly in Southern and Eastern Africa.
How easy is it to sell to African telcos?
It’s by no means an easy sell in Africa. We’re trying to leverage where we have strong business relationships. Mozambique’s TDM has put out a tender for VOIP. The requirements are somewhat stringent in relation to our offering but we’d like to bid. Mauritius Telecom and the regulator are still thrashing out when they will open the market but there will be a lot of opportunities there.
It used to be a technology sell but now it’s a strategic business case. They can see it’s the future. It can reduce costs, drive incremental revenues and help with the grey market problem.
What’s your view of the recent "least cost routing" case in South Africa?
Telkom has been plagued with problems from grey operators. For example there is equipment from Primacel that allow you to put in SIM card so that you can have international calls coming in as if they were domestic calls. The mobile companies have customers who do it. Telkom is saying that they should police their customers. We’re primarily focused on the wholesale market so we’re not involved in this.
What for you are the most promising type of markets?
We’re looking at where there’s high international market demand. For example, where there’s a lot of expats. We also look at those places where we’ve already got existing relationships or an expressed interest. There has to be a reasonableness factor because we’re looking for speed to market. Is there a genuine willingness or are we taking part in a long philosophical discussion?
Who are your competitors?
Our competitors are often the same people we collaborate with. Telkom wants to be a regional hub for VOIP. It’s contracting the same PTTs as us.
What about international competitors?
There will be more and more competition as it becomes more mainstream but at the moment we don’t run into international competitors.
What’s your view of grey markets?
In Maputo two weeks ago we were talking to TDM and they were saying they had one there. Grey markets exist because there’s arbitrage opportunities, even in South Africa. Therefore the greys are active in every market but are very hard to police.
What were you doing before you came to work for ITXC?
I have worked for Deloitte Consulting from 1994 to 19797 and for Telkom SA (International Division) between 97 and 2000, first as Senior Project Manager in the VSAT Group then as Area Manager (Africa) in the carrier business Division. I early 2000, I joined the Investment Division of Eskom Enterprises where I spent the last 2 years as Venture Development Manager responsible for telecommunications projects (Privatisations, JVs, ...). My job was to identify and pursue business opportunities and investments in telecoms, prepare business plans and negotiate transactions with the various parties involved. At Eskom Enterprises, I have been involved in several important transactions, such as privatisations in Lesotho, Cameroon, and Kenya, as well as fiber optic projects in Nigeria, Zambia, and the DRC, to name a few.
What attracted you to do the job?
ITXC became one of the top 10 global carriers in the world in about 5 years. That’s enough to attract anyone serious about a career in telecoms. But what attracted my attention was the inroads they made in Africa as far back as 2000 by signing deals with Telkom SA, Ghana Telecom, Sonatel in Senegal, Chad Telecom, and a few other carriers. This demonstrated a committment to do business in Africa which meant I would not need to sell Africa to ITXC, but simply help ITXC accelerate its strategy implementation in Africa as well as help the company develop best practices to further gain and defend market share, particularly in Africa. Some of these best practices are already in place and will help us make ITXC a leader in the African voice market. ITXC runs a global network in the most efficient way one could imagine : over the public Internet. This is cost-efficient while we are able to offer tier1 quality of service and it allows us to originate and terminate voice traffic anywhere the Internet exists, which today means everywhere. This methodology allows us to deploy quickly and to start routing traffic in a matter of weeks. An for most partners, we are able to fund the specialised equipment required to interconnect to their network. This is why we tell prospective partners that with ITXC, they can grow their profits quickly and without incurring Capex. And we are proving it everyday.