Mobile 'to drive internet in Africa'
11 October 2012
Sub-Saharan African countries have seen a steady uptake of mobile communications and are poised for strong growth of mobile, broadband and internet services over the next four to five years, according to global researchers Frost & Sullivan.
Broadband penetration levels in Sub-Saharana Africa are significantly low, in most cases less than 5%, which has limited the levels of internet usage in the region.
However, new analysis released this week by Frost & Sullivan finds that there were 181.7-million mobile and fixed telephony subscribers and 29.8-million internet subscribers in the region in 2010, and estimates this to reach 266.1-million mobile and fixed telephony subscribers and 77.5-million internet subscribers in 2017.
This expansion will be driven primarily by uptake of mobile voice and internet services.
"The growth of voice and internet markets in Africa is expected to be driven by a decline in retail price for these services," Frost & Sullivan's information and communication technologies business unit leader for Africa, Chantel Lindeman, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Operators benefit from infrastructure investment
"Operators in the region are investing significantly in mobile infrastructure, including base stations and transmission networks. This is expected to result in the availability of higher network capacity at lower cost, with operators spurring growth by passing savings in network costs to the end users of services."
According to Frost & Sullivan's research, African operators are investing in shared terrestrial fibre-optic infrastructure to increase transmission capacities and connect end users to undersea cables.
They are also adopting infrastructure sharing at base stations to minimise the overall cost of delivering services to end users. Cost minimisation is likely to translate to lower retail prices of voice and internet services and push up demand and uptake levels.
Low-income consumers the challenge
The key challenge to growth and increased penetration of voice and internet markets in Africa is the low disposable income of a majority of consumers, the research finds, with the cost of devices required for the uptake of internet services generally seen as high.
As a result, operators in the region are likely to experience significantly low levels of new subscription to voice and internet services in the short term, and are likely to look to models used in developing markets in the region.
"Operators should learn from experiences in the uptake of mobile telephony services in African countries such as Kenya, that have experienced notable penetration levels," Lindeman said.
"They should engage governments to offer tax subsidies on mobile phones, laptops and smartphones that are required to access internet services. In addition, operators can extend their range of internet access packages to meet the budget capabilities of more consumers."