Gareth Townley has over 10 years’ experience in African telecoms, including most recently CEO at Viasat Broadcasting from 2008 to 2011. Previously Gareth was CEO for Millicom’s cellular businesses in Sierra Leone and Ghana from 2003 to 2007.
At Viasat where he was the Chief Executive Officer; Africa, Townley was able to work on the acquisition of licences or existing operations within a number of African markets, this includes identification, assessment and negotiations. He led the creation of Pan-African Production House and the launch of MTG United for Peace, Children’s Charity in Ghana.
In this interview with MobileWorld Townley speaks on new direction, competition and Eaton Towers’ resourcefulness. Excerpts…
What are your immediate plans as the new CEO of Eaton Tower?
I want to differentiate Eaton from others in the Tower industry. I have already sat down with my management team and told them. We are not a “Tower Company”. We are a “Sales Company”. What we sell is “Consumer Access” and what is important to our customers are the “purchasing and social trends” of the individuals that we can provide access to. I want Eaton to be pro-active. We will go out there and show the benefits that are available to the mobile operators, the broadcasters, the ISP’s, if they were to provide their product and services in the communities we access. I am not seeing this approach to sales in the industry today, it is too technical and infrastructure focused. It puts too much pressure on the customer to understand demographic and social elements of the market.
What is your current assessment of Ghana telecom industry?
The competition is intense, six operators, including some of the biggest players in the Industry, down here fighting for market share. The customer is benefiting from lower rates, but more can still be done in terms of quality and product development. I would like to see higher investment in Rural Coverage, Mobile Money and 3G & 4G technologies. The heavy investment in Brand Building should be curtailed and greater focus on delivering the product and service to their existing and potential clientele.
What makes Eaton Tower Unique?
We have a very unique mix of people at Eaton, that’s what makes us unique. We have former senior executives from the European Telecommunication giants, such as Orange and Vodafone and then mix this with Management from companies like Tigo and MTN, who bring that Emerging Markets knowledge and experience to the party.
A majority of our recruitment has come from the operators and this allows Eaton to really understand the aspirations of our customers, since we have the personal experience of being in that position.
How do you keep pace with cutting-edge technologies?
We “copy with pride”. I don’t want my team out there trying to re-invent the wheel and lose focus on delivering the service our customer expects. We let the “technology companies” do their research and development and we just observe from afar.
Once it is developed and ready for market, we will look at benefits it can offer our customers and make an implementation decision after that. “We are a Sales Company” not a “Technology Company”.
What are the growth areas in the next five years?
3G Technology, 4G Technology, Mobile Money, Rural Communication
Right now, we are just scratching the surface in this industry. Existing customers are demanding more from their respective operators with regard to product and service. In addition to this, potential new customers are still out there waiting for the digital revolution to reach their community. I would also expect to see early signs of tower rationalisation, where some of the older towers put up individually by the operators will be taken down and replaced with modern new sites offering co-location for all.
I am very optimistic for the industry in Ghana. We have a very forward thinking and supportive Ministry and Regulator and a huge talent pool of highly skilled local employees.