Group CTO of Soliton Telmec, Ali Maawiy, explains how the Company is successfully tackling the continent’s infrastructure deficit with its innovative approach and diversified solutions
Writer: Jonathan Dyble
Project Manager: Kane Weller
Telecommunications infrastructure across the African continent has vastly improved in recent years.
According to the World Bank, the number of fixed mobile lines in use on the continent per 1,000 people increased from just three to 736 between 1990 and 2014, while the number of internet users per 100 people similarly rose from 1.3 in 2005 to 16.7 in 2015.
However, despite the surge in progress, Africa is still lagging behind almost every other region globally, highlighting the need for further development.
Introducing Soliton Telmec.
Having already played a role in the deployment and support of 6,200 kilometres of long-haul and metro networks, connecting over 5,000 enterprise and government sites in the process, the Company is continuing to play a crucial role in furthering the continental infrastructure agenda.
Established in 2005, evolving from Soliton Systems, Soliton Telmec has risen to become a leading telecommunication engineering company, building and supporting some of the most technologically complex infrastructure across Kenya and Uganda.
“Starting off as a small fibre deployment company, we have since evolved in a number of ways, now helping our customers in planning and surveying, building and maintaining their networks, whilst also offering quality and service assurance solutions and systems,” says Ali Maawiy, Group Chief Technical Officer of the Company. “We have become known for our extensive capabilities that allow us to oversee the entire lifecycle of network solutions, thus ensuring that our customers optimise their assets.”
Diversification is a term that has become synonymous throughout Soliton Telmec’s Structure. “It is what I believe embodies the value of our services,” says Maawiy.
The firm has explored a number of new avenues in the aim of satisfying the demands of its customers on a broad scale, evident through its recent interest in adding power solutions to its service portfolio.
“Africa has a lot of issues when it comes to reliable grid power,” Maawiy adds. “With this in mind, we have been looking to provide some off-grid solutions in remote areas. Where we deploy tower solutions, for example, it is clear that there is an opportunity to provide reliable power to remote communities.”
Equally, the business has developed extensive managed services capabilities, not only helping its clients to construct and maintain infrastructure networks, but also allowing them to maximise the potential of each project by securing new business opportunities.
A defining feature of these managed services can be found in Soliton’s recent emphasis on implementing the latest technologies, helping to impart greater oversight and control of networks to client bodies.
“Having gained a strong understanding of the challenges facing the telecommunications industry, we are looking to digitise and automate the management of our customers’ assets where possible,” says Maawiy.
“One of the biggest problems that service providers are experiencing, particularly on the fibre side, is that they don’t store data in the correct formats in order to fully understand and capitalise on their inventory. This is an issue that we have sought to solve.”
Leveraging its expertise, Soliton was recruited by the Ugandan government, tasked with commercialising the country’s national fibre networks.
“The Ugandan government has built around 2,450 kilometres of fibre networks, and having partnered with them, we were able to take over the management of this infrastructure,” Maawiy continues. “In doing so, we successfully commercialised these networks, helping the government to generate additional revenue. In addition, we have reduced the government’s cost of communication over the last five years.
“By monetising these assets and reducing the costs, the government has a new source of finance that, in turn, can be used to help accelerate economic development and improve the lives of its people.”
Providing a platform
Such comments give a sense of Maawiy’s commitment to ensuring Soliton remains a good corporate citizen – an attitude that it is readily reflected in the Company’s employment strategies.
In a bid to support remote communities, the firm offers a platform to select students from marginalised backgrounds, aiding their university tuition and later absorbing them as employees. Through this, Soliton ensures that disadvantaged individuals are able to succeed either at Soliton or elsewhere within the regional telecommunications industry, providing them with the training that they need.
“Additionally, we have partnered with certain universities, taking a certain number of top performing students on apprenticeship programmes,” adds Maawiy.
With a corporate identity that has largely been shaped by its innovative methods, Soliton has continued to be successful in attracting top talent, owed to its willingness to adopt best-in-class technologies.
“Our R&D team ensure we continue to identify new industry solutions, market changes and embrace any shifts, and in turn we rigorously train our staff in using new technologies, positioning us at the forefront of the curve,” Maawiy continues.
“We are very proud of the fact that most of our trainees originally chose Soliton as their primary place of work, something that is testament to the high-quality training that we offer.”
Having built an esteemed reputation across Eastern Africa in less than two decades, the business is now looking to broaden its reach into new markets across Sub Saharan Africa.
Asked about the Company’s prospects moving forward, Maawiy is quick to emphasise that Soliton’s strategies will continue to embody diversification and innovation, no matter where they operate.
He concludes: “I am proud to be able to go to our customers and say we can offer you data solutions, quality and service assurances, monitoring and management support and a host of other things.
“We want to retain this, and ultimately our key goal is to become a one-stop-shop, providing high quality enterprise, wholesale, engineering and telecommunication solutions across Africa.”