Liquid Telecom looks to unlock its spectrum assets in SA - TechCentral

Liquid Telecom looks to unlock its spectrum assets in SA

Reshaad Sha

Newly appointed Liquid Telecom South Africa CEO Reshaad Sha said in a podcast interview with TechCentral on Thursday that one of his top priorities is unlocking the potential of its valuable spectrum assets and is exploring various options to do this.

Liquid Telecom (formerly Neotel) has access to key spectrum in the 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 3.5GHz bands, which are all well suited to delivering mobile broadband infrastructure.

Vodacom had previously been interested in buying Neotel precisely because of the value of those spectrum assets, but the transaction fell apart over concerns of market concentration. Vodacom is South Africa’s largest mobile operator.

Speaking to TechCentral, Sha said the company’s spectrum assets “form an important component of our asset structure” to be monetised.

“We are exploring multiple monetisation models, through partnerships, that will allow us to use that spectrum effectively,” he said. “We are in the middle of a number of engagements that will (result in) significant use of that spectrum.”

Existing regulations preclude Liquid Telecom from simply selling the spectrum, and Sha emphasised that all discussions taking place “are within what the regulations allow us to do”.

The operator has used its 800MHz spectrum to roll out a CDMA network (for legacy voice and narrowband data) and has deployed some LTE coverage at 1.8GHz and 3.5GHz.

Focus on business, wholesale

Sha said Liquid Telecom’s focus in future will be on the business market — from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) right up to big corporate entities — rather than the retail consumer segment.

“The consumer component is quite small in relation to the rest of the revenue profile and the consumer space has evolved significantly since the launch of Neotel, where fixed services were an important component of the portfolio,” he said. “The mobile operators have done a pretty good job of offering a wide variety of services that acted as a replacement for fixed services.”

Neotel, he said, has never invested a significant amount of money in the consumer business.

“When Liquid Telecom took over, we found it in a specific state with some really old technology, but also with some capability to continue to deliver consumer services.

“We have rolled out a small LTE network, specifically in Gauteng, and we have a CDMA network that is in many of the major metros. We still have customers on it… Our focus, however, is going to require us to spend a lot more time, effort and capital in the SME through to enterprise segment, and the wholesale telco space. That means we will not prioritise … the retail consumer space.”

He said he is exploring “various options” for the consumer business, with the company likely to “make some changes in the coming weeks”. Selling the retail consumer base is one of the options being considered.  — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media

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