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Africa accesses internet by cellphone
Africa accesses internet by cellphone

Africa accesses internet by cellphone


Business Day - Nov 14th 2011, 08:13

Research firm Informa Telecoms & Media says one fifth of internet traffic in Africa will be carried by cellular networks by 2015 

Global research firm Informa Telecoms & Media said last week a fifth of internet traffic in Africa would be carried by cellular networks by 2015, compared with a global equivalent of just 3%.

Infrastructure investment in high speed third-generation networks has soared in recent years, making mobile operators the main providers of internet services in Africa.

Informa’s report, Broadband in Africa, assesses the progress towards the goals set at the Connect Africa Summit in 2007 and includes an industry survey.

In SA, MTN, Vodacom , Cell C, Neotel and Telkom are spending billions of rand to upgrade and in some areas roll out high-speed mobile networks to cater for the demand for data services.

Informa expects the broadband experience in Africa to become increasingly nomadic with the number of connections over cellular networks exceeding 250-million by the end of 2015, compared with 15-million fixed connections, of which 70% will be digital subscriber line, a fixed-line high-speed data network.

Co-author Matthew Reed, head of mobile research for the Middle East and Africa at Informa, said a combination of public and private investment, regulatory action, competition and technological innovation had made telecoms services in general more widely available to a greater range of the population. "There is no room for complacency though — devices and services are still prohibitively expensive for the poorest, terrestrial cabling remains undeveloped and mobile network coverage is often sparse or nonexistent in some rural areas."

Informa said significant problems still faced the industry as it tried to expand broadband rollout.

The five most widely articulated problems, according to the respondents, were cost of expansion; insufficient connectivity or backhaul; cost of retail broadband services; cost of international bandwidth; and low PC penetration.

Co-author Nicholas Jotischky said Connect Africa should not just be judged against its ambitious goals, but by how much private and public investment it had encouraged and whether regulators had become more proactive in forcing widespread broadband access. It should also be judged against whether governments are choosing to engage more with their citizens and transform internal processes with the help of various e-services.

The relaxation of licensing, allocation of more spectrum and cheaper retail broadband services can all play a large part in accelerating Africa’s entry into a high-speed internet age and become a fully fledged knowledge economy.

Peter Lyons, director of spectrum policy, Africa and Middle East, at GSMA, an association representing mobile network operators worldwide, said that to take full advantage of their potential, African countries needed to allocate more spectrum for the provision of mobile broadband services, and introduce tax cuts for the industry.

"By doing so, they will increase consumption of mobile services, thereby boosting their economic and social development," he said.  

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