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Exclusive interview with Kevin Jacobson, General Manager, Business Indirect Sales, MTN Business.  MTN is a platinum sponsor at African Utility Week.

Kevin Jacobson
Q: What are you most excited about regarding MTN’s current utility projects?
A: Our extensive M2M experience allows us to play a consultative role in the value chain. At MTN Business we have the opportunity to work with companies that provide a multitude of solutions including smart metering, where we are able to offer the know-how for effective implementation in this regard.

MTN Business have launched two products that Corporates themselves can monitor measure and in doing so, control and become more operationally effective and environmentally conscious.

These products include:

Water monitoring − a Machine2Machine solution that allows the customer to monitor their business’ water usage and access real-time and reporting through a web-based service. This device is connected to a water meter and using the meter’s standard pulse outputs, provides accurate hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual consumption reports. In addition, a business can also generate flow rate graphs detailing hourly consumption patterns, and can configure maximum/minimum flow rate alarms with escalation via SMS and email.

Automated meter management (AMM) − controls and monitors a business’ electricity usage and takes advantage of the accurate hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual monitoring. Not only does this solution provide an overview of the meter, the SIM card and the network status, but it allows a business to remotely configure its electricity meter and backup usage information on a database.

Q: What sets MTN’s solutions apart from the competition?
A: MTN Business is passionate about Machine2Machine and therefore uses its own solutions effectively as part of its green drive. We aim to not only save money and allow companies to do the same; but we are also doing our bit to save the planet. We have the vision that will take our customers into the future.

Q: Can you give us an indication of MTN’s interests in the African utility market?
A: MTN is the largest operator on the African continent. At MTN, we understand the scarcity of resources and therefore the need to preserve and conserve resources. It is important to have real time information and manage our resources as best we can.  We therefore selected this platform to participate in, in order to network with those who share a similar viewpoint to us, to gain insight as well as to showcase our innovations and the products that we offer to the utilities sector.

Q: What do you think are the main challenges for the energy industry in Africa?
A: We have a shortage of power in South Africa, inadequate resource running at full capacity without the luxury of being able to implement effective preventative maintenance. This leads to the risks of load shedding which in turn negatively impacts the economy. The energy sector is battling to get its energy savings message across as well as failing in providing effective billing and collection leading to overloaded and oversized call centers, high debtors days and massive bad debt. Utilities need to get real time billing to the customer, increase transparency to consumers, demonstrate the real effects of energy conservation and let them experience the fruits of their effort. Consumers need to tangibly see the cost saving in order to change behavior.

Q: What is your vision for the industry?
A: Smart grids; smart meters; informed corporates and consumers. Our vision for the industry is this:

  • Smart grids and smart meters.
  • Effective use of alternative energy.
  • Corporates and consumers with a real time view of their accurate bills.
  • Utilities use time based tariffs to control usage.
  • Creation of a larger green conscious community that understands the value of preserving resources.

Q: What surprises you about this industry?
A: So much can be done with the technology that is already available. Technology is at our finger tips and we have yet to exploit it as we could.

Q: What is your specific message at this year’s African Utility Week?
A: Let’s start to effectively involve both corporates and consumers, give them the power and the consciousness to make a difference and lead them. Let’s use the technology available, partner and leave our mark.