Internet Solutions
Internet Solutions

Alessia Capitaneo, Senior Account Manager at Internet Solutions’ London office, explains why it has to be Africa. 

woman taking notes working on laptop

In Africa, Internet Solutions (IS) isn’t just one of the leading sub-Saharan regional operators, it’s a global wholesale player. And Alessia Capitaneo, who drives UK and European Sales, is key to this division’s growth and success.

Alessia is one of a growing group of influential Women in IT at IS. We met her at IS’s Fleet Place office in London, just a few steps away from St Paul’s Cathedral. Alessia began her career in her home city of Milan. In the early 2000’s the Italian telecoms industry was experiencing unprecedented growth. Desperate employers were crying out for young sales people, who understood the new technology. “So I took a chance,” remembers Alessia and began a career in sales at a local ISP. The ISP would go on to become BT Italy. Hungry for bigger and bolder opportunities, Alessia moved to London in 2004 where she joined Vodafone (C&W at the time) and then Tata Communications. Over the course of the next 10 years, spent entirely in Global Carrier Services, her special relationship with Africa began.

“My involvement with African accounts began by chance,” Alessia recalls. “I had never been to Africa before, when out of the blue, the opportunity came my way. I’m so happy I had that chance because Africa is everything you want a career in telecoms to be: exciting, challenging, groundbreaking and never boring.

Africa is so diverse in terms of its regulatory environment and technology maturities, and of course each country’s access to submarine cables and whether the country is landlocked or coastal. A blanket approach to connectivity will not work in Africa. Each country needs to be approached as distinctly individual. While some countries are deregulated, others operate in a monopolistic economy. However, each country has one thing in common – they’re fast changing – making every day a new challenge.

These developing countries are growing and I’ve seen rapid change, not only in technology, but in everyday life experiences as citizens are enabled to make meaningful connections and participate economically. I remember when I travelled to Nigeria the first time… Everything had to be paid in cash, requiring me to travel with hundreds of newly printed US Dollars to be exchanged at the hotel into thousands of Nairas. Now, wherever you go, credit cards are accepted.

But sometimes Africa is ahead of the technology curve as they leapfrog phases in the typical technology hype cycle. The first time I went to Angola in 2012, they had already jumped straight to 4G, while I was still using a Blackberry.

It was while I was travelling to my African clients, that I came to know IS in South Africa. Then a client, I was instantly won over by their culture and people. But becoming part of this company has proved even better. Our people are proud of their countries and our company culture and they’re very approachable and friendly.”

Alessia says that in previous roles she used to sell global networks to African operators. “Now I do the opposite: I sell IS regional coverage to global carriers based in the UK, Europe and the US. This is particularly thrilling for me, because I am instrumental in connecting communities between the African continent and the rest of the world. European and US operators are always interested to hear the latest updates and news from the Sub-Saharan region, as there are constant changes in technology and services.”

She continues: “We have points of presence (POPs) in London and in Frankfurt, where most of our UK, EU and US customers interconnect with us. However, with POPs in Hong Kong and Singapore, we are truly global.”“Nowadays carriers want to be closer to the infrastructure, with the fewest hops between them and their end customers. That’s why they appreciate the value of dealing with IS in Africa.” Pointing at the map on the screen in front of her, Alessia notes that “We’ve been market leaders in SA for 25 years, but our regional network covers 17 countries in total.

It means that through one IS connection, our clients can cover pretty much the entire Sub-Saharan region. This is important as, with slower growing economies where our European and US carriers are based, they’re always looking to expand their footprint in the fastest growing countries. And IS, ambitious to widen its coverage in more countries and acquire infrastructure, is the perfect fit for global carriers’ strategy.” Alessia is a well-known figure in the wholesale data industry, and actively participates in industry conferences like ITW and Capacity Europe. She is often called upon to provide her expert view of the challenges and opportunities in Africa.

“My Wholesale clients are focused on their core network coverage, wherever that may be in the world. It’s my job to open Africa up and make it easy for them. It’s a challenging place to do business, but that’s where our strength lies.”

Get in touch with Alessia at alessia.capitaneo@dimensiondata.com

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