Interview: Mohamed Assoweh Bouh
How do you expect the recent launch of LTE Advanced in Djibouti to affect the sector?
MOHAMED ASSOWEH BOUH: Djibouti inaugurated its new LTE Advanced mobile network in June 2018. This technological leap is expected to enhance connectivity and boost access. Deploying a new mobile network, however, is no easy task. Nevertheless, we have been able to overcome one of the main obstacles facing the industry, namely the technical challenge. Since launching the new network we have found that there has been no latency or saturation at deployed sites. Moreover, this technology has been well received by our customers as there was strong demand for data.
How is this expected to impact data usage and smartphone penetration in the country?
ASSOWEH: All over the world, there has been an increase in data consumption and mobile phone penetration. The launch of a high-speed mobile network in Djibouti will come to support the development of new digital services such as video streaming, web conferencing and online games, among others. Since the launch of the new network an increase in data traffic has been observed in the country, with many Djiboutians connecting to their smartphones to watch videos, read the news, access social media and download apps. These activities combine to accelerate smartphone penetration.
What priorities are there to further develop and modernise the country’s network infrastructure?
ASSOWEH: As part of the Transformation Plan 2017-21 we have embarked on a vast programme of modernising network infrastructure, as well as customer services. Among its targets is the goal of developing very high speed connectivity nationwide by 2021.
This is expected to be achieved through two main technologies; the first being fibre optics. A pilot project is currently in its last phase in the residential area of Haramous with the aim of connecting 1700 villas and apartments. The second technology is LTE Advanced, which is being used to establish a very high-speed mobile network. Another pillar of the modernisation programme consists of establishing flexible infrastructure. To this end, the construction of a new all-IP digital network equipped with IP Multimedia Subsystem technology is under way.
Investing in submarine cables is another priority. This will enable us to meet growing demand and consolidate our regional position. With this in mind, the Djibouti Africa Regional Express Project was initiated with a capacity of 60 Tbps and six landing points covering 5500 km. Lastly, a new data centre is expected to come online by 2020, and will be the first and only data centre in East Africa with access to all major international fibre-optic systems linking Europe, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific and Africa.
What challenges need to be overcome to successfully embrace digital transformation?
ASSOWEH: Digital technology is the primary challenge facing the contemporary world, just as the agricultural and industrial revolutions previously were. The main issue is the impact of disruptive technologies on labour markets and growth. It represents a great opportunity for our national economy, where sectors such as logistics, finance and tourism are largely dominant. However, successfully leveraging such transformations requires a well-defined digital strategy, which involves all the relevant sectors and stakeholders. For Djibouti to become a regional centre of these technologies, it is essential to preserve investments in the telecoms sector because this provides the bedrock of digital transformation. The next challenge is to establish trust by ensuring the data protection of customers and fighting cybercrime. The final challenge is to invest in human capital to build a more innovative and competitive economy.
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