Some of the world's large telecoms companies, including South Africa's MTN, have formed an alliance aimed at developing tech startups to aid innovation in the sector, they announced on Thursday.
The members of the newly formed Alaian alliance are French telecoms company Bouygues, Spain's Cellnex Telecom, Dutch landline and mobile telecommunications, KPN, MTN, Madrid-headquartered Telefónica and Italy's Wind Tre. Together, the companies have a presence in 50 markets.
MTN is the only African telco among the group of companies.
The alliance is focused on "reinventing the industry by discovering the most disruptive startups and the potential to provide access to a network of 700 million customers".
In a statement on Thursday, the companies sounded a call for startup companies who would benefit from support to reach a global scale and be connected with the telecom companies' business units to generate joint business opportunities.
Innovators would be given an opportunity to test their solutions and access 5G labs.
Startups with 5G-based technology solutions for industries in manufacturing and logistics, mobility, utilities and energy, metaverse, media, entertainment, gaming and retail are being sought for development of innovative solutions aligned with new technologies. Being part of the development will expose companies to equity investment and exposure to venture capital firms.
MTN's head of strategy and transformation, Chika Ekeji, said innovative digital solutions are a huge part of the company's strategy and being part of the alliance will expose MTN to "partnering with startups that are a strong fit with our Ambition 2025 strategy of leading digital solutions to Africa's progress."
MTN, the leading telecommunications company in the continent, is involved in extensive infrastructure development across its markets, in what creates the foundation for the rollout of new technologies such as 5G.
"This new alliance gives us the chance to meet new startups from different backgrounds, to discover and share opportunities with companies that share the same challenges as us," said Stephane Allaire, Chief Innovation Officer of Bouygues Telecom.
Companies have until the end of May to apply to the programme.