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Africa heads for nomadic Internet age

By 2015, a fifth of African Internet traffic will be carried by cellular networks, compared with a global equivalent of just 3%. Informa Telecoms & Media (ITM) expects the broadband experience in Africa to become increasingly nomadic with the number of broadband connections over cellular networks exceeding 250 million by the end of 2015.
The ITM State of Broadband in Africa Survey was conducted online in Junenand July 2011, and quizzed over 250 respondents on the state of the market.nWhen asked how important different communications service types are inninfluencing Africa’s economic development, the overriding response was thatnmobile telephony and broadband services are making the most positive impact onneconomic growth.

Africa’s communications market is mainly consumer-facing but, atna time when operators need to find new revenue streams, it is noteworthy thatnenterprise services are seen as highly important to so many of the respondents’nbusiness strategies. Enterprise mobility services will play an important partnin the future strategies of many operators, and especially in the region’s morendeveloped markets.
In a competitive marketplace – and there are few morencompetitive telecoms markets in the world than those in Nigeria, Tanzania andnSouth Africa – it is important that carriers can differentiate either in termsnof network quality or products. Informa believes that the digitisation ofnAfrica can only become a reality if the customer experience of internetnservices is good.
A supply of local content is pivotal to this customernexperience: The demand for highly-valued and relevant content is a major drivernfor Internet take-up. But the primary sources of content in Africa remainninternational, and there is a paucity of local content available.
For the continued growth of broadband in Africa, it is importantnthat this changes, Informa has found. Without enough relevant local content,ninternational content alone will not maintain usage at the levels required bynthe operator. But the most popular internet sites accessed across the continentnare still the likes of Facebook, Google, BBC and YouTube. Proving a businessncase for expansion is the main inhibitor to new broadband growth with 55 perncent of respondents claiming the infrastructure costs are the most significantnimpediment to expanding broadband rollout. On a similar theme, 40 per centnpoint to insufficient connectivity and backhaul as providing an obstacle tonbroadband growth.
The arrival of new submarine cables should help to rectify thenretail broadband service issue and there is some evidence that the EASSY andnSeacom cable systems are having some impact on retail broadband markets on theneast coast of Africa. Certainly, the associated declines in bandwidth pricingnin wholesale data markets have been significant, but this has not alwaysncrossed over to the retail market.
According to the survey, improved international capacity (34 perncent) has been the single biggest impact of the landing of new submarine cablesnsince 2007, just ahead of lower international bandwidth pricing (32 per cent).nBack at the time of the Africa Connect Summit, SAT-3 was the only submarinencable serving Africa’s west coast. Four years later, there are five additionalnoperational cables, two of which serve East Africa. These cables provide anpotential 15 Tbps of international bandwidth – in 2007, Africa had access to annestimated 0.04Tbps. Little wonder then that a third of the survey’s respondentsnsaid that additional international capacity has been the biggest impact from submarinencable investment.
*nArticle courtesyninformation telecoms & media, organists of AfricaCom.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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