1. Introduction

Telecommunications is a multi-billion-rand industry employing millions of people and is responsible for connecting people around the world. Telecommunications infrastructure, including cellular and internet services, provides a modern and efficient service to urban areas. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is the telecommunications regulatory authority in the country.

Telecom Sector

The South African telecommunications market serves a large customer base. To establish such a scale of connection, companies need to invest millions of rand to build, implement and maintain infrastructure for these large projects. The purpose of this study is to measure the effectiveness of the managers overseeing such projects in the telecommunication industry in South Africa.

Background of Telecommunications in South Africa:

In 1997, Telkom, the South African telecommunications parastatal, was partly privatised and entered into a strategic equity partnership with a consortium of two companies, which included a session border controller (SBC) and a U.S. telecommunications company. In exchange for exclusivity to provide certain services, Telkom assumed an obligation to facilitate network modernisation and expansion into the unserved areas. A Second Network Operator, Neotel was licensed to compete with Telkom in 2002.

At the time of this study, South Africa had four licensed mobile operators: MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and 8ta, a subsidiary of Telkom. Vodacom and MTN controled 75% of the mobile market share. ICASA considers that mobile brand services are highly concentrated in the country. A new provider, Rain launched in 2018 provides data-only services to consumers.

2. Background of the Study

The South African telecommunications industry has a high demand for affordable data and calling services. This is fuelled by the increasing number of mobile users and the demand for services such as online browsing of media, cloud computing and increased availability of sophisticated technologies. To fulfil this demand, there is a need to invest in infrastructure to move from 3G to 5G. To keep capital investments low by using existing infrastructure organisations like Rain, provide only data (Alzahrani and Emsley, 2019). Elon Musk’s Star Link also does not require conventional infrastructure and the entire telecom service is relayed via satellite.

The implementation of such projects requires managers with extensive knowledge in various domains that include the traditional telecom infrastructure and concepts such as cloud computing, radio waves and MI so that organisations stay ahead of the competition in real-time and in future. This effort requires knowledgeable human capital that can achieve a system aligned for the future without disrupting the present infrastructure and can implement such projects in real time.

At the centre of any project is a project manager, whose role involves managing expenses, time, scale, uncertainties, and stakeholders. Increased ambiguity, instability in the project environment, and reduced lead times all influence project performance, but fundamentally, project success relies on project management efficacy (Thomas 2012:40).

Telecoms programs operate on high budgets which if not completed on schedule or budget, can decrease their market share and income. Despite the myriad bureaucratic, technical, and political difficulties facing project management, the project manager is inevitably accountable for meeting the project schedule (Amalraj, Hernani, Ladouceur, K. & Verma, A. 2017).

3. The Global Telecommunications Industry:

The telecom industry includes regional and long-distance telephone coverage;  disruptive technology-based networks, which include satellite systems; the world wide web; all types of multimedia; fibre-optics, and mobile tower communication systems.

In 2016, the global telecom market transitioned from commercial and industrial telephones to voice over internet protocol (VOIP) and a shift from dial-up modern telephones to handheld devices. Greater competition existed between wired and wireless network companies, and development in the volume of data and content was accessible via the internet and via wireless networks for news and entertainment, especially videos. The market is marked by:

  • sophisticated and affordable satellites
  • the rapid development of equipment networking
  • the continuing progression of disruptive communication systems and
  • and high-speed 5G networks (Friess 2013:22).

The emphasis is on providing more cellular and internet networks for the future. Thus far, 4G and LTE are the most important developments internationally. There is also a significant expenditure on broadband connections based on fibre, and it is projected that over 140 nations have an NBN strategy or intend to undertake broadband to cater for the needs of billions of mobile phones and devices and internet users globally.

4. The Global Telecommunications Market:

The telecom sector is a major segment of the economy, generating about US$1.5 trillion in gross sales per year. It has evolved due to revolutionary technology, including the internet, which generates high demand and access to connectivity networks. The mobile phone market has over 7 billion paying members and over 650 million mobile network consumers producing about US$960 billion in sales annually. The Statistics Portal (2016:17) states that the telecom market in Europe provided €292 billion in sales in 2019, and income from this industry in Africa and the Middle East rose from approximately 85 billion euros in 2018 to approximately 99 billion euros by 2020. The global sales for 2021 are expected to surpass a trillion euros. There is also a rise in the market for online services on phones. About 75% of mobile phone subscribers are in developing markets, like Africa and India, with inadequate infrastructural facilities and a large population.

The study demonstrates that the worldwide usage of mobile networks rose from approximately 69% in 2016 to approximately 98% in 2020. Massive increases in mobile phone users come from developing economies, due to factors such as young and increasing demographics, rapid economic growth, and limited fixed line networks. The telecommunications industry has expanded because of improved broadband networks, increased smartphone and tablet penetration, and a greater variety of web content and apps.

Innovative technology, globalisation, and the deregulation of telecommunications companies have dramatically changed the industry. Globalization also abolished tariffs, facilitating the expansion of overseas markets. In recent years, there has been a great deal of restructuring and liberalization, resulting in business improvements in the telecommunications sector. This sector has evolved to become highly competitive. The industry has moved from voice to data cellular technologies. The introduction of these technologies has provided for the use of mobile phones to convey a degree of richness that was previously unattainable. As a result of the above, new competencies revolve around serving consumers and delivering content. Yan, Qian, Sharif, and Tipper (2013) state that the telecommunications sector is transitioning from a monopolistic, autocratic organization to a more egalitarian, collaborative, and transparent one. To succeed in the modern marketplace, telecommunications firms have been forced to restructure their operations and several companies have made strategic partnerships to attract new customers.

Global Telecommunications Outlook:

The telecom market relies on the trends of Mobile to Mobile (M2M), Deep Learning, and Artificial intelligence. How does one sustain user satisfaction and improve mobile and fixed broadband networks over time? Established markets will depend on mobile access with a cheaper handset infrastructure. It has been established that Internet service has become exceedingly important in developing markets such as the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America due to the large population’s need for connections to the networks. It has been observed that business dynamics would remain daunting for operators, with continuing price deflation compelled by resistance from Over-The-Top providers and neighbouring market entrants, like cable firms and un-bundlers entering mobile networks. The telecom sector will, moreover, grow in many directions. Operators will pursue differentiation across network efficiency and service offers, strengthened by the presence of broadband technology and business partnerships. This will upset many companies due to the growth of technology and interface-led creativity. Regulators and decision-makers will have to face emerging problems as the digital world changes.

The Telecommunications Industry in South Africa:

This information was accurate at the time of this study.

Fixed and Mobile Telephony:

Fixed telephony is the usage of telephones connected via a cable which are VOIP, WLL, ISDN and phones available in public spaces. Telkom has the highest number of fixed-line subscriptions which holds a fair-sized market share as businesses still use such lines(Arroyo, 2018). Mobile telephony facilities can access mobile phones and link them to cellular network base stations which use satellites to relay data. They are linked to the PSTN which enables them to communicate with any phone anywhere in the world (Cochetti 2014:113).

Telecommunication Companies in South Africa:

There are four licensed telecommunication companies in South Africa which are Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C.

MTN (Mobile Telecommunications Network):

MTN is the largest mobile cellular communications services provider in Africa. It was founded in 1994. It offers an integrated suite of products and services to its customers, including traditional and mobile voice and data, digital and mobile financial services, as well as services to small and medium enterprises, the public sector, and corporate clients. It has its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the end of the 2019 financial year, MTN had 27 000 employees and gross revenue of USD 15.43 billion; a net income of USD 3.345 billion and a total equity of USD12.43 billion.

The Vodacom Group:

Vodacom is jointly owned by Telkom, a South African telecommunications group, and Vodafone, a British mobile phone operator. It was founded in 1994. Its headquarters is in Midrand, South Africa. The company provides GSM, 3G, UMTS, HSDPA, WIMAX and LTE coverage to approximately 56 million customers across Southern and Central Africa. By the end of 2019 Vodacom had an estimated market share of over 38.4% in South Africa.

Cell C:

Cell C is owned by Oger Telecom South Africa, Cell SA and by Lanun Securities SA. It was founded in 2001 and has its headquarters in Randburg, South Africa. Cell C has more than 30% of South Africa’s geographic area network coverage. It has a market share of over 25%, with a customer base of over 6.9 million. In its fiscal year ending December 2019, Cell C reported revenue of R13.2 billion.

Virgin Mobile:

Virgin Mobile entered the South African telecommunications market in 2006 in a joint venture with Cell C. Virgin Mobile South Africa operates as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), as it does not own any infrastructure. It operates through Cell C’s infrastructure (Chiumba and Akinsanmi 2010:23). Virgin Active piggybacks on Cell C’s infrastructure, through a service level agreement. 

Telkom:

Telkom is jointly owned by The South African government and other shareholders, such as the Public Investment Corporation; Visio Capital Management; Acadian Asset Management; Dimensional Fund Advisors; LSV Asset Management, and the Vanguard Group. Services offered by Telkom include fixed-line voice, data and interconnection, data centre operations, like e-commerce hosting and storage, and mobile communication which include voice, data, and handset sales. 

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