Following on from the Russia Africa Summit at Sochi, Russia, last October, Corporate Africa speaks with Mr. Ahmad Sayed Regional Head and VP of Sales MEA for Nexign; about how Nexign solutions is bringing value to telecoms in Africa.

Mr Ahmad, could you please tell us about Nexign’s operations in Africa?

Nexign is focused on and covers all of Africa and the Middle East. Our main goal now has been to gear up and become active to partner opportunities and develop and grow our team on the ground. We have also signed up in a number of partnerships with system integration companies who are ready to exploit Nexign’s project delivery and technical support services. So to recap we have been very active in business development activities and the market has responded positively. And at this time we are being selective by not pursuing every opportunity going but instead focusing on higher level BSS projects.

What sort of challenges has Nexign experienced during its twelve months in Africa and how have they impacted the company’s business strategy?

Let me tell you about an experience in the market here then your readers can judge for themselves the challenges we are facing. We were awarded a project in Mauritania by Chinguitel the largest telecom company there. We were required to replace their outdated, inflexible billing system with a modern, converged solution designed for the digital era. The system was outdated and was not efficient. We pledged that we would complete the system in nine months but instead we completed the entire migration of their system in seven months. So, we are reaching out to the local market in new countries and at the same time managing our resources well. And, afterwards we were informed by Chinguitel that because of the BSS solution deployed by Nexign, their company had achieved a ten per cent increase in revenue and is now experiencing greater efficiency carrying out their services.

And Nexign solutions for business support systems? Tell us about some of the systems, innovations and technology solutions Nexign offers?

Our experience is based upon successful projects including digital transformation of Tier-1 CSPs and working during the last 15 years in countries with different types of projects requiring differing solution and skills. And our business support system solutions have achieved results bringing additional improvement for clients. We have good experience and understanding how to monetize network services and offer additional value to our clients’ services. At the same time we carry out network services, and network transformation which is our key approach. We have a very experienced team with extensive experience, and they have been successful in different types and scale of projects, including distribution and network servicing in Russia and other countries. Where innovation is concerned, we not only focus on the technology and architecture but we are very involved in network element. We consider that big synergy between business support systems and network functions in our solutions creates new advantages for our clients, allowing them to set and control network KPIs in business terms, from top to bottom, using BSS objects to manage services network elements on the session flow level.

Also one of the innovation which is a major highlight of the company is a solution for personalized roaming offers developed with blockchain technology. It is part of our product portfolio which provide the ability to organize a blockchain-driven marketplace based on blockchain network of our partner. We support marketing networks and the core purpose is to publish, buy and sell service packages, sim subscriptions and other digital entities from one partner to another.  You can publish your offerings to other players with blockchain networks and we can organize this with this roaming module.

How is Nexign bringing value to BSS that are seeking to add value through monetization and other data services?

It’s no longer sufficient for BSS providers to differentiate purely on product functionality. Vendors need to compete on non-functional business aspects and drive better customer experiences in order to stay competitive in the market.

Nexign provides BSS solutions and services for telecom operators in more than 16 countries for over 27 years. The company has extensive experience in full-stack BSS transformation providing cost efficiency and new opportunities for network monetisation. From an operational perspective, Nexign Digital BSS enables a new level of agility and speed of change thanks to DevOps practices and a flexible configuration layer.

We can enable telecom operators to transform their business models and to become digital service providers (DSPs). The classical portfolio of telecom operators has started to stagnate due to the influence of Over-The-Top services (OTTs) and as a consequence, operators across the globe, including in Africa, are turning to Nexign for solutions to help them evolve and stay competitive in the digital era.

We are fortunate in the sense that we have already had a strong BSS portfolio in place and our roadmaps were always grounded in best-practises such as open architectures and functionality for real Tier 1 operator needs, such as those of MegaFon.

Our strategy is focused on how we can enable communications service providers (CSPs) to become DSPs and move towards open, partnership-powered business models that will generate sustainable, long-term value.

Some of the key aspects of our product strategy are:

  • Enabling personalisation together with an optimal experience.
  • Supporting the creation of partnership ecosystems.
  • Powering revenue stream diversification as well as cost base optimisation through 5G, Cloud, IoT, analytics, SDN/NFV, BPA, open source and blockchain.
  • Emphasising agility and rapid Time to Market.

We also see a trend where CSPs are expecting their suppliers to assume responsibilities beyond their specific area. They expect them to become real partners by being able to provide, and own, end-to-end, future-proof value solutions that support the convergence of networks and operations.

With the emergence of 5G, B2B2X platform business models, the establishment of partnership ecosystems and the business transformation of service providers, the relationship between vendors and CSPs will continue evolving towards a partnership-based model, where value will be created and shared by both parties.

5G is currently being rolled out across Europe. Does Nexign have any plans to exploit 5G in Africa and how would 5G further increase value to BSS?

As the 5G saga takes shape, regional telecom operators must decide how they fit in. We believe that there has never been a better time to make the transition from communications service provider (CSP) to digital service provider (DSP). The advent of new technologies will always signal an opportunity for businesses in their orbit. But monetisation of such innovations can prove problematic without the right business support system (BSS).

This is particularly true in the age of the millennial consumer―connecting the infrastructure to the digital native, in a hassle-free way, is part and parcel of the optimum user experience (UX). According to a TM Forum report, as much as two thirds (67%) of total revenue from 5G use cases—beyond mere enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA)―is dependent on OSS/BSS transformation. For telcos, this means that adapting their BSS to support 5G services will have an impact on rating, charging and policy control. Complex usage scenarios will demand the integration of many other systems, and operators will need to ensure that a single BSS can cover these areas, but most critically the Internet of Things (IoT), collaboration with service providers, legacy WiFi management and eSIM subscription management.

The 5G revolution, like all revolutions, is endowed with the weight of inevitability. Now that the race has begun, it will be to the profit only of those who recognise the integration gaps in their own house and tune up their BSS in readiness for the boundless opportunities on the horizon.

Tell us about the internet of things (IOT) and how Nexign solutions are working to build capacity in this area in South Africa?

IoT is no longer just a buzzword. It is a reality and already a global trend. While initial projects have been focused on advanced economies, the rate of adoption has increased in developing countries too, and digital service providers will play a key role in driving adoption.

In South Africa, global consulting and research firm Analysys Mason expects that the number of Internet of Things devices on mobile networks will reach 29 million by 2023, resulting in connectivity revenue of almost R3 billion (US$225 million) for operators. While IoT has a major dependency on communications networks, a growing number of network operators have undertaken – or are in the process of undertaking – digital transformation journeys, which makes it easier for them to roll out new services and cater for new business models.

A major inhibitor to the adoption of IoT is the readiness of network operators, as well as the acceptance that the biggest volume of communication in future will be machine to machine (M2M). More receptive customers understand this, as well as why it is important to make the shift and introduce IoT products and services.

This is where, having the right IoT platform comes into play; it sits at the heart of any IoT ecosystem, and having a robust, agile solution in place is vital if service providers are to provision and monetise products using these new technologies. Customers should be able to monitor distributed devices in real time, manage devices at infrastructure level and diagnose any problems that may occur when IoT devices are connected to the network.

Nexign offers a telco-grade IoT solution for connectivity management integrated with billing system and Service Capability Exposure Function (SCEF) to securely expose the services and capabilities provided by 3GPP network interfaces and can therefore allow MNOs to offer value added services that leverage these interfaces. Key functionality components of Nexign’s connectivity management offering include SIM management, device management, communication channel management, cost management, reporting  and value-added services such as fraud detection and firmware over the air updates (FOTA). Additional services inside the IoT platform, such as device behavioral analysis based on machine learning, location tracking and fraud prevention create new models of monetising of low-margin IoT subscribers and reduce maintenance costs.

Nexign is HQ in Russia and last month the Russia Africa Summit at Sochi hosted a meeting with more than 6000 investors and governments from across Africa and Russia to discuss building partnerships and investments between Russia and African nations. Do you believe that Russian technology and Nexign can transfer other technologies and skills to Africa that other western and Chinese companies are not doing at present?

In 2018, Nexign made R&D one of its principal strategic priorities. We invested 65 per cent more in product development and improvement than we did in 2017. The most important outcomes of our R&D work are the high agility of our product solutions and their competitiveness in the global market. We currently have more than 300 world-class experts working in R&D department.

Nexign has been a leader in the high-tech market for more than 27 years, an achievement which was made possible only by constantly developing and refining our product portfolio. In a globalising economy, our company is committed to adapting the solutions we develop to the high standards of the international market, allowing Nexign to successfully compete with leading global telecom solutions providers in any market we enter.

It is important for Nexign to address not only the enhanced functional aspects of our portfolio but also ensure that we address and differentiate based on non-functional aspects: clients do not only want out of the box functionality. The market is demanding focus and transparency in TCO. Clients expect agility, flexibility, customisation and ultimately unlocking value faster. Our product strategy encompasses all those aspects and our focus is on becoming the ‘leaders in value’.

What differentiates us from our competitors is that through our products, services, personalisation and optimal customer experience that goes beyond the omni-channel, we enable our clients to have a business model that differentiates themselves from their competitors.

Combining our technical expertise, future-proof portfolio of products with flexibility around pricing provides the African market with a strong package as it looks to embrace the shift in digital transformation.

Nexign parent company has other companies carrying out other services. Are those companies also doing business in Africa, and how are they faring?

ICS Holding is a multidisciplinary IT group whose focus area includes investment, management and consolidation of the technology, media and telecom sector. ICS Holding brings together more than 25 IT companies. Among its priorities are the digital transformation of enterprise companies, information security, data storage systems, big data management and analytics, predictive analytics, cryptography and quantum computing, machine learning and artificial neural networks, blockchain technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).

Some companies of the ICS Holding have intentions to enter the African market but at this moment Nexign is the only company that is presented in this region.

Tell us about the opportunities Nexign is offering Africa in terms of jobs, training, and diversity?

Nexign has a 27-year history in the CIS region, a region with 12 countries and a population of 240 Million. Russia alone has more than 190 ethnic groups, more than 27 million people of non-Christian orthodox religion, and more than 30 million people defined as coming from minority ethnic background. Even though there is still work to be done, the CIS region has dealt with and made great strides in a lot of the diversity matters that we are still trying to solve in other parts of the world.

At Nexign, I think the biggest challenges we are facing today are language barriers and comprehending the different business cultures between the CIS region and the rest of the world. The company is providing language training for non-native English speakers to prevent problems arising from miscommunication. Our cultural and diversity programs are vital to these efforts and will remain one of the priorities for the senior management team.

At Nexign when we work on projects in Africa there is always an element of transferring skills where we empower the client and the staff who will be working with the solutions that we provide. In this we provide training that is based on experience not only from Russia but around the world.