The South African telecoms sector will see more mergers and acquisitions as the market consolidates over the next 18-30 months, according to a telecoms expert.

At the sixth annual Broadband Summit in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Monday, John Holdsworth, CEO of ECN Telecoms, said: “Consolidation is starting to happen already, but you have to have the breadth of services. Those with limited services...their days are absolutely numbered.”

Holdsworth, who earlier this month sold his business to JSE-listed Reunert (RLO), said: “You are going to see a wave of consolidation over the next 18-30 months. I think you will see a host of mergers and acquisitions and a combination of smaller companies disappearing and some being bought out.”

Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, CEO of investment company World of Avatar and a former MD of broadband provider iBurst, told the audience: “The future is data. It is Africa where the opportunities lie; if you are thinking SA you are thinking too small - sub-Saharan Africa is the sweet spot. Sub-Saharan Africa is the play and data is the play.”

Knott-Craig Jnr pointed out that infrastructure was key. “Go and build and they will come. Preferably use your own money - that will focus you.”

He said that whoever provided effective infrastructure over the next five years would be the most powerful. If they did not continue to invest, they would not be the most powerful.

Knott-Craig Jnr noted that Telkom (TKG) continued to be the “crown jewel in the South African telecoms market”, but added that Cell C was making a big play at success through its broadband strategy.

He said that, while Vodacom (VOD) led the pack, “it's difficult to dislodge Vodacom because they have the market share. If you want to challenge them you have to go out and build stuff.

“The crowd that still has the biggest opportunity is Telkom, particularly through 8ta and voice,” said Knott-Craig Jnr. - I-Net Bridge