Making Sense of the Telco Cloud

In recent years the cloudification of communication networks, or “telco cloud” has become a byword for telecom modernisation. This Telecoms.com Intelligence Monthly Briefing aims to analyse what telcos’ transition to cloud means to the stakeholders in the telecom and cloud ecosystems. Before exploring the nooks and crannies of telco cloud, however, it is worthwhile first taking an elevated view of cloud native in general. On one hand, telco cloud is a subset of the overall cloud native landscape, on the other, telco cloud almost sounds an oxymoron. Telecom operator’s monolithic networks and cloud architecture are often seen as two different species, but such impressions are wrong.

(Here we are sharing the opening section of this Telecoms.com Intelligence special briefing to look into how telco cloud has changing both the industry landscape and operator strategies.

The full version of the report is available for free to download here.)

What cloud native is, and why we need it

“Cloud native” have been buzz words for a couple of years though often, like with many other buzz words, different people mean many different things when they use the same term. As the authors of a recently published Microsoft ebook quipped, ask ten colleagues to define cloud native, and there’s good chance you’ll get eight different answers. (Rob Vettor, Steve “ardalis” Smith: Architecting Cloud Native .NET Applications for Azure, preview edition, April 2020)

Here are a couple of “cloud native” definitions that more or less agree with each other, though with different stresses.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), an industry organisation with over 500 member organisations from different sectors of the industry, defines cloud native as “computing (that) uses an open source software stack to deploy applications as microservices, packaging each part into its own container, and dynamically orchestrating those containers to optimize resource utilization.”

Gabriel Brown, an analyst from Heavy Reading, has a largely similar definition for cloud native, though he puts it more succinctly. For him, cloud native means “containerized micro-services deployed on bare metal and managed by Kubernetes”, the de facto standard of container management.

Although cloud native has a strong inclination towards containers, or containerised services, it is not just about containers. An important element of cloud native computing is in its deployment mode using DevOps. This is duly stressed by Omdia, a research firm, which prescribes cloud native as “the first foundation is to use agile methodologies in development, building on this with DevOps adoption across IT and, ideally, in the organization as well, and using microservices software architecture, with deployment on the cloud (wherever it is, on-premises or public).”

Some would argue the continuous nature of DevOps is as important to cloud native as the infrastructure and containerised services. Red Hat, an IBM subsidiary and one of the leading cloud native vendors and champions for DevOps practices, sees cloud native in a number of common themes including “heavily virtualized, software-defined, highly resilient infrastructure, allowing telcos to add services more quickly and centrally manage their resources.”

These themes are aligned with the understanding of cloud native by Telecoms.com Intelligence, and this report will discuss cloud native and telco cloud along this line. (A full Q&A with Azhar Sayeed, Chief Architect, Service Provider at Red Hat can be found at the end of this report).

The main benefits of cloud native computing are speed, agility, and scalability. As CNCF spells it out, “cloud native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach. These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.”

To adapt such thinking to the telecom industry, the gains from migrating to cloud native are primarily a reflection of, and driven by, the increasing convergence between network and IT domains. The first candidate domain that cloud technology can vastly improve on, and to a certain degree replace the heavy infrastructure, is the support for the telcos’ own IT systems, including the network facing Operational Support Systems and customer facing Business Support System (OSS and BSS).

But IT cloud alone is far from what telcos can benefit from the migration to cloud native. The rest of this report will discuss how telcos can and do embark on the journey to cloud native, as a means to deliver true business benefits through improved speed, agility, and scalability to their own networks and their customers.

The rest of the report include these sections:

  • The many stratifications of telco cloud
  • Clouds gathering on telcos
  • What we can expect to see on the telco cloud skyline
  • Telco cloud openness leads to agility and savings — Q&A with Azhar Sayeed, Chief Architect, Service Provider, Red Hat
  • Additional Resources

The full version of the report is available for free to download here.

Orange starts reopening its shops in France

French operator Orange has already opened 30% of its shops and expects to have the rest up and running by the end of the month.

It looks like France is a fair bit further down the road to opening up than the UK, if Orange is anything to go by, but it’s also providing a taste of how society has been changed by the coronavirus pandemic. While it’s opening shops, Orange is also putting a number of measures into place to help people interact with it without leaving the house and to reduce congestion in its shops.

All its communications channels can now be used to access a new booking system that will allow them to reserve a time slot in their nearest shop, thus preventing queuing and unnecessary time spent generally milling about the place. Pretty much everything they might do in the shop can be done remotely these days, but some people like to look someone in the eye before they agree to anything.

On top of that, Orange shops will be littered with the kind of paraphernalia that would have, until recently, been indicative of extreme hypochondria. All the staff will be wearing masks, there will be hand sanitizer pumps everywhere and they will wipe down sales terminals after every use. On top of that there will be the customary floor signs urging social distancing.

While it’s great to see Orange France opening up again, a trip to the store seems like a massive drag under these circumstances. So long as everyone is required to walk around in hazmat suits, flinch from anyone within coughing distance and treat any object that doesn’t smell of surgical spirit with deep suspicion, many people will probably opt to stay in regardless.

Orange, Proximus and KPN feature in a tsunami of financial results

Today has seen an avalanche of financials fall on the industry, as Orange, Proximus, Millicom, Ooredoo, Swisscom, Telenet and KPN all release earnings statements.

Orange Group quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – Euro, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 10,394 +1%
Operating profit 2,602 +0.5%
CAPEX 1,580 -3.1%

“During this first quarter, the final weeks of which were struck by an unprecedented crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Group continued its growth momentum in terms of revenues (+1.0%) and EBITDaL (+0.5%),” said Orange Group CEO Stéphane Richard.

“This growth has been underpinned by strong performances in our Africa & Middle East business, progress in the Enterprise market, in France and in Europe.

“The importance of telecoms in this crisis in ensuring the continued functioning of the economy and of our societies confirms the strategic nature of our activities and provides further confirmation for our strategy in very high-speed networks.”

Proximus Group quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – Euro, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 1,393 -1.5%
Operating profit 464 +0.3%
CAPEX 232 +5.9%

“With most of Proximus’ business showing a good level of resilience in these exceptional circumstances, along with our strong cost management, we realized stable EBITDA,” said Guillaume Boutin, CEO of the Proximus Group.

“It’s clear we are not fully immune to the ongoing COVID crisis, and we expect the impact to become more apparent over the next quarter. The economic recovery remains uncertain and especially Roaming and ICT projects are exposed to further negative effects.

“While it’s very difficult to have a clear view of what the overall impact will be, so far, there are no signs the financial effect would be worse than what we have anticipated, with the EBITDA effect largely being offset by a lower capex. We therefore reiterate our 2020 full-year guidance of Group EBITDA Capex of EUR 780-800 million.”

Millicom quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – Euro, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 1,088 +5.1%
Operating profit 134 -17.1
CAPEX 174 +3.4%

“In light of the severe impact that COVID-19 is having on the global economy and in many of our markets, we have already implemented significant measures to help us navigate through these challenging times, which we anticipate will impact our revenue at least through the remainder of 2020,” said Millicom CEO Mauricio Ramos.

“These measures include a reduction in capex made possible by focusing largely on adding network capacity while deferring other investment plans, and the implementation of new cost savings initiatives.”

Ooredoo Group quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – QAR, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 7,295 +1%
Operating profit 3,023 -5%
CAPEX

“In Q1 2020 Ooredoo Group has increased our revenue and we have delivered good results Growth was driven by strong performances in most of our markets, and in particular in Indonesia and Tunisia where revenues grew 7% and 16% respectively, supported by Indosat Ooredoo’s refreshed strategy and the implementation of Ooredoo Tunisia’s value creation plan,” said Group CEO Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al Thani.

“Business in Myanmar has been growing as well. Ooredoo Qatar continues to be our highest revenue generator, reporting QAR 1.8 billion in total revenues for Q1 2020.

“The implementation of nationwide lockdowns across many of our geographies impacted EBITDA as margins came under pressure due to changing customer behaviour. EBITDA for Q1 2020 was QAR 3.0 billion compared to QAR 3.2 billion for the same period last year. We continue to implement strong cost optimisation programmes across all our OpCos to manage some of the impact from the pandemic and weakening economic activity.”

Swisscom quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – CHF, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 2,737 -4.3%
Operating profit 1,111 -0.7%
CAPEX 516 -0.4%

“The market environment is challenging. But Swisscom’s results are sound, given the circumstances. The demand for our bundled offerings continues. Our network is the foundation of our success. This is evident in the current COVID-19 crisis,” said CEO Urs Schaeppi.

“Meetings via video conference in the home office, distance learning in the children’s room and contact with friends via telephone and FaceTime are now part of everyday life – with corresponding effects on the infrastructure.

“We recorded 70% more mobile phone calls in March than in the previous month. And in the fixed network, we reach peak levels every evening at prime time with TV and streaming services. Before the crisis, this only happened on Sunday evenings. Swisscom’s networks are continuing to hold their own, even at this time.”

Telenet Group quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – Euro, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 653 +4%
Operating profit 153 +2%
CAPEX 172 0%

“Against the backdrop of these current exceptional circumstances, I’m pleased with the solid underlying operational performance in Q1, continuing the improved momentum we’ve seen since the second half of last year,” said Telenet CEO, John Porter.

“While gross sales have clearly decreased since the closure of our retail stores as of mid-March, this effect was more or less compensated by lower annualized churn. We had a particularly strong quarter in broadband, adding 8,100 net new subscribers and marking our best quarterly performance since Q2 2016.”

KPN quarterly financials (to March 31, 2020) – Euro, millions
Metric Quarterly total Year-on-year growth
Revenue 1,329 -2.4%
Operating profit 216 +14%
CAPEX 278 +6.3%

“From a business perspective, COVID-19 has had a limited impact on our operational KPIs and financial results in the first quarter,” said KPN CEO, Joost Farwerck. “We continued with the execution of our strategic plan and saw continued intense competition in the Dutch market, resulting in a lower customer base in Consumer.

“Mobile postpaid ARPU in consumer stayed at € 17 for the fifth consecutive quarter. In Business, we made again solid progress with customer migrations towards our KPN EEN portfolio; 82% of our SME and 62% of our LE customers migrated from traditional fixed voice or legacy broadband services.

“We continued to digitalize and simplify our organization, which led to strong cost savings in the quarter. In Wholesale, the announced assessments of regulated tariffs were discontinued by regulator ACM following the CBb court ruling on wholesale fixed access regulation

Ericsson’s 2020 African growth plans

President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, Fadi Pharaon, tells Telecoms.com about the group’s strategy for growth on the African continent.

Africa represents a huge growth opportunity for Ericsson — from increased 4G coverage to future 5G rollouts and rising fintech adoption — the company is eager to grow its business and presence on the continent. This according to Fadi Pharaon, President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, who chatted to Telecoms.com about the group’s strategy for growth on the continent.

  1. What are some of the key African insights to come out of the latest Ericsson Mobility Report?

Africa remains the fastest growing mobile market in the world. According to our Ericsson Mobility Report, by 2025, in Sub-Saharan Africa mobile broadband subscriptions will increase to reach around 70% of mobile subscriptions, with increased 4G coverage and uptake being the main engine. Driving factors behind this shift include a young and growing population and availability of lower priced smart and feature phones.

The continent has emerged as one of the strongest adopters of innovation, with the rapid rise in usage of technology and smartphones. Just look at how mobile money was initiated in Africa and is now surging all over the continent.

Moreover, Africa has come a long way in its digitization journey – from mobile telephony to broadband, and from connecting to digitizing key economic sectors, jobs, education, healthcare, government and society in general.

  1. What do you see as the greatest risk to African economic development, and what role could the telecoms sector play in mitigating this?

The risk is for sure the current slowdown in global trade caused by the COVID-19 restrictions. Add to that the presently depressed oil prices which could affect the GDP of certain oil exporting countries. That said, the continent’s median age is just 21 years. A young and growing African population with savvy digital skills and behavior could offset some of these adverse trends and indicate favorable growth for telecom and ICT services.

The current COVID-19 restrictions have demonstrated the benefits of a digitized economy, facilitating working from home as an example. This could prove to be an opportunity for Africa to accelerate its journey towards raising the role digital and telecom services play in a socio-economical context.

  1. So, knowing both the opportunities and challenges, what is Ericsson’s primary focus in Africa?

Africa represents a world of opportunity for us at Ericsson and we are eager to grow our business and presence in the continent. We see a real potential in African markets when it comes to 4G and fintech adoption. To address that, we focus on supporting our customers in the African markets with relevant and cost-effective 4G solutions and services, all while adapting to Africa’s requirements.

  1. 5G is a hot topic globally. What is the state of 5G roll-out by Ericsson in Africa?

Ericsson is continuously working with our partners to identify and create 5G use cases relevant to the market in question. One of our first major steps towards rolling our 5G in Africa was the announcement in November 2019 that Ericsson had been selected by MTN South Africa as a 5G network modernization vendor. We are still a few years away for any major 5G deployment in Africa, although the application of fixed wireless access, meaning using 5G as a way to offer high speed broadband to homes, could be suitable for those markets.

  1. You’ve previously mentioned that it is important to Ericsson to ‘show value towards customers’. What do you mean by this?

Ericsson focuses on assuring best performing networks, while also offering the best digital services and solutions to our customers. Our aim is to create a unique customer experience evolving from networks adopting automation, artificial intelligence and analytics. One of our focus areas also is reducing time-to-market and flexibility in launching services for our customers towards their subscribers. From an operations perspective, we focus on driving service delivery efficiency through adoption of advanced tools.

  1. Mobile money has historically been very successful in Africa. Does Ericsson have a role to play in this space?

According to a recent study by GSMA, mobile money is central to the mobile industry’s contribution to 15 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. At Ericsson, we have been incredibly proud to see Ericsson’s mobile money services introduced by our customers to several African communities to address challenges faced by unbanked communities. We believe that easy access to Mobile Money can make a tangible difference in the lives of unbanked communities. We will continue our focused growth of mobile financial services so that our service provider partners reach out to more communities across the continent.

  1. You’ve operated in South Africa, and across the continent, for decades now. What success stories can you share with us?

Our work in South Africa is a great success story example. Ericsson has been a proud partner to one of South Africa’s largest mobile network providers since 1994. However, our South African success story is not just a commercial partnership; we believe we have made a tangible difference to South African society. When former President Nelson Mandela called on the private sector for help in developing education in marginalized communities in the 1990s, Ericsson heeded the call and we have been active ever since.

Our Connect-to-Learn program is positively impacting South African girls in schools today. In Diepsloot, a disadvantaged community outside Johannesburg, Ericsson has built an e-hub that brings together entrepreneurs, innovators and society. Just this year, we introduced robotics in the hub. This is what we mean when we say we’re committed to giving back to society.

  1. What role do you play in the area of managed services in the Africa region?

Many of our customers across the globe choose us to run their networks and IT operations on their behalf and that is what we call “managed services”. In Africa, we see a big potential to expand our managed services business across the continent. With an increasing complexity brought by advanced technology, paired with ever higher expectations by the end-users, our managed services could bring to bear all of our global best practices to the service providers’ networks. Proudly we have a large managed services footprint with key customers in Africa such as MTN, Orange, Moov and Airtel. Our investments in managed services will continue and will pave the way for continuous high-performance services to African service providers.

 

— Fadi Pharaon, President, Ericsson Middle East and Africa

Orange cuts dividend in response to COVID-19

While it has been described as a more palatable ‘adaption’, investors will have to be satisfied with a dividend payment which is 29% lower from French operator group Orange.

Taking the dividend down from €0.70 to €0.50 is perhaps not an unusual move during a global crisis which is walking economies towards recession, though Orange is one of the first major telcos to make the announcement. That said, financial guidance has remained the same for the year.

“Based on currently available information, Orange does not expect a significant deviation from its 2020 objectives, but we are closely monitoring the situation and its developments,” CEO Stéphane Richard said.

“The important role played by the telecoms sector during this crisis to ensure the continued functioning of our economy and society as a whole confirms the strategic character of our activities.”

As part of the reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, the upcoming Shareholders’ Meeting will be held behind closed doors, with investors only able to submit votes ahead of the meeting. Postal votes are still allowed, though the management team have encouraged the use of a digital platform or proxy voters.

Holding the meeting behind closed doors should not be surprising, though not been able to ask questions live or propose new resolutions is unusual. This is after all a company which is boasting about its ability to help customers work in real-time remotely, but the same cannot be done for the Shareholders’ Meeting.

Orange should perhaps listen to its own advice as this is incredibly sloppy.

And while it might be logical to assume that more people working remotely would be a benefit to the telcos, the reality is somewhat different; these are businesses which are facing the same financial strain as the rest of the economy.

Thanks to COVID-19, enterprise customers are spending in a different way, scaling back investments on connectivity projects, while roaming revenues have been dented. Research from the Scope group suggests roaming revenues could decline by as much as $25.832 billion globally over the next nine months, though this is a pessimistic forecast.

For telcos who operate in popular tourist destinations, Orange being one of them, this may well create a notable dent in the spreadsheets.

What is worth noting is that financials also rarely match home broadband trends.

Data usage might be surging across Europe thanks to remote working, entertainment streaming, gaming and video conferencing trends, but this does not mean users are upgrading subscriptions. Many subscribers would already be on unlimited data broadband contracts in any case.

The telco industry is not suffering any where near as badly as some, retail or the airlines for instance, but it still has to be careful. The longer the outbreak continues, the further into the future revenues from 5G deployments can be realised. Revenues will continue to be eroded, as has been the trend for the last two decades, but the replacement fortunes are being pushed back.

Although Orange is one of the first to declare a cut to the dividend, it would surprise few if more telcos follow its lead. Investment banks are looking at the likes of BT, Telecom Italia and Telefonica wondering when the announcement of a dividend cut will actually be made. It seems to be a case of when not if for the majority of telcos.

Orange proves convergence should be telco business basics

A decade ago, Orange started trialling convergence in the Slovakian market, but today the success proves it should be the foundation of every successful business.

“Europe is a success story and convergence is the jewel in our crown,” said Ramon Fernandez, Orange CFO and Head of Europe.

In fairness to the Orange business, it has a way of investing in ideas and leading innovation for the European telecoms industry. It wanted to diversify into financial services, so it bought a bank. It wanted to drive home convergence, so started investing heavily in fibre. The smart home, security and energy services are on the horizon, once again proving Orange does not wait around for industry consensus before making its move.

Convergence is a trend which has now seemingly caught fire in the telecoms industry, with Orange arguably the most advanced telco strategically worldwide, but perhaps it should no-longer be considered innovative. Any telco with any sense is positioning themselves for a convergence play.

In the UK, BT is making the ‘Halo’ initiative the centrepiece of the consumer business, while Vodafone’s purchase of Liberty Global’s cable assets in Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic sets the telco in the same direction. Convergence is not innovative anymore, it is something that telcos just have to do to stay relevant.

Looking at the Orange business, Fernandez said the telco now has 10.6 million convergence customers across Europe; 5.8 million in France, 3 million in Spain and the rest split across the remaining territories in Europe. Convergence customers now account for 40% of revenues across Europe.

Territory Revenue to Sept 2019 Convergence customers
Romania 813 million 227,000
Poland 1.9 million 1.3 million
Belgium 1.2 billion Unknown
Slovakia 409 million 77,000
Moldova 103 million 27,000

In terms of Group revenues during the last period, Orange reported growth of 0.8% to €10.57 billion for the third quarter, adding to €20.57 billion brought in over the first half. While financial growth might not be eye-watering, the foundations being laid through the convergence strategy offer excellent opportunities in the future.

After years of investing in both mobile and fixed networks across Europe, Orange’s fibre deployments are progressing very effectively, the connectivity foundation is sound. Few telcos can compete with Orange in terms of assets across the bloc, but the customer retention benefits of convergence are allowing Orange to explore new services. Security products are being launched, connected objects are being sold, banking is expanding, energy services are being played with and the team is investing in a smart home platform. Orange is making the evolution through to Digital Service Provider, built on the foundation of connectivity convergence.

While this is an enviable position, it is not one which can be created overnight. Orange has been investing towards the convergence strategy for years, and now other operators are playing catch-up. With results proven, perhaps we should stop talking about convergence as innovation, and just the way telcos should do business.

Belgian watchdog puts the brakes on Orange and Proximus JV

The proposed network sharing joint venture between Orange and Proximus has been slowed as the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) launches an investigation.

At the request of Telenor and Telenet, the Belgian authorities have placed temporary measures on Orange and Proximus to halt a network sharing joint venture while it investigates the potential impact on competition in the market. The original agreement was between the two parties was concluded in November and will remain stagnant until at least March 16.

Both Orange and Proximus have noted the complaint but rejected the basis of the opposition from Telenet.

“The sharing agreement for the mobile access network will have positive effects for the customers and for the Belgian society as a whole, in particular a faster and more extensive deployment of 5G, a significant reduction in total energy consumption and an improvement of the global mobile service experience, while maintaining a strong differentiation between the parties on services and customer experience,” the pair said in a joint statement.

As part of the joint venture, the pair have said the rollout of a joint radio access network would allow the number of mobile sites to be 20% higher compared to each operator’s current stand-alone radio access network. This improved coverage is claimed to increase the footprint to more than 10,000 households across the country.

Each party would retain full control over their own spectrum assets and operate their core networks independently to drive differentiation. The network sharing agreement would span across 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G.

While this does sound positive for the consumers of Belgium, a complaint from the third-largest operator should not be a monumental surprise.

Telco Subscriptions Market share
Orange 4,895,631 35%
Proximus 6,310,403 45.1%
Telenet 2,801,759 19.9%

Statistics curtesy of Ovum World Information Series (WIS)

Telenet’s has suggested the joint-venture would create a quasi-monopoly, as the number of infrastructure players in the market would be reduced from three to two. The telco also suggests BEREC guidelines would prevent such a joint-venture from materialising as it would undermine intense infrastructure competition.

Telenet is also pointing towards a similar agreement in the Czech Republic between O2 and T-Mobile. Despite this agreement was far less wide-ranging (it did not span across 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G), the European Commission opposed the tie-up with the suspicion it would have a detrimental impact on competition in the country.

With the drive towards 5G and full-fibre broadband straining CAPEX budgets throughout the industry, the impact is perhaps felt more in countries such as Belgium where populations prevent scale. Network sharing agreements are not uncommon as a means to more efficiently invest, though these are usually focused on specific geographies or limited to 5G expenditure. Other initiatives are usually in countries where the base-level of competition is higher than what is currently in play in Belgium.

While this investigation is underway, Orange and Proximus are able to begin the groundwork for the joint-venture, sending out RFPs (Request for Proposal) or select staff to be transferred for example, though Telenet has presented an interesting case. European regulators are incredibly sensitive to competition, especially in markets where there are only three telcos.

Orange opens new Africa and Middle-East HQ in Casablanca

Orange has announced it has opened its new headquarters for the Africa and Middle-East region in Casablanca Finance City Tower in Morocco.

The Africa and Middle has been gradually offered more autonomy as a unit since 2015 and opening a headquarters on the continent is as much a symbolic gesture of this trend continuing. With 125 million customers across the region already, Orange is certainly making progress in an often challenging market.

“Orange is one of the rare international groups to have made the strategic choice, 20 years ago, to seek to develop in Africa and the Middle East,” said Group CEO Stephane Richard.

“We have always been convinced of the immense potential of this continent. In many ways, it can be seen as a model for digital transformation; mobile money is a great example of this.

“One of the key success factors behind new services is to develop them in Africa so that they are adapted to specific local requirements and so meet the needs of our customers. That is why we have decided to organise the management of our business in Africa and the Middle East from within the region directly from the African continent.”

While many telcos have desires to cash-in on the under-developed markets around the world, few have made as obvious a success of the ambition as Orange in Africa.

Looking at the most recent financial figures, revenues for the Africa and Middle-East business rose 7.6% for the third quarter of 2019, bringing in €1.447 billion. For the first nine months of 2019, revenues across the unit accounted for €4.185 billion. Orange now has 22.5 million 4G customers across the region, up 49% year-on-year, while a third of 44m Orange Money customers are active.

Looking forward, the prospects are looking very favourable for Orange. The team has launched 4G in 17 markets, while investing €1 billion in the networks across the year will certainly see some new developments. The team is also heavily targeting the agricultural industry with IOT services, hoping to increase revenues between 10-30% on average.

Looking at the Engage 2025 strategy, Africa and the Middle-East has been highlighted as the most significant growth engine for the business. This is potentially a very lucrative region for the telco which has laid the groundwork in recent years to realise its ambition of being the ‘reference digital operator’ in the region.

Former Orange CEO jailed over workers’ suicides

French telco Orange has been found guilty of ‘moral harassment’ by a French court, with former CEO Didier Lombard facing a suspended jail sentence.

As the punishment is below two years, and Lombard is not considered a threat to the general public, no time behind bars will actually be served, though the ruling could prompt a significant shake-up for workers rights across the country. Lombard has also been fined €15,000, while Orange has been fined €75,000.

According to Reuters, the courts decided the corporate culture of overworking employees at Orange during the period was a direct contributor to the spate of suicides.

What is worth noting is that while it has been a decade since the accusations were directed towards Orange, the company has undertaken several transformation projects to ensure the same cannot happen again.

Orange has said it will not dispute the ruling from the court and has pointed to several initiatives to correct the toxic world culture which was in place at the time.

Earlier this year, the telco created a Compensation Commission to review individual situations, which resulted in the Evaluation and Compensation Committee which began operating in October. As a preventative measure, Orange has also said it has undertaken a vast social transformation project designed to prevent workplace suffering and psychosocial risks.