Just Published: "Africa - Fixed Broadband Market - Statistics and Analyses"

From: Fast Market Research, Inc.
Published: Mon Aug 03 2015

More internet investment needed to sustain Africa's economic growth

There remains considerable activity and investment in Africa's national and international broadband infrastructure. Many countries have a range of government programs in place aimed at increasing bandwidth availability, and at extending networks deeper into non-urban areas. Submarine cables now provide 20-times more international bandwidth than was the case in 2010: international bandwidth broached 2Tb/s by the end of 2013. In North Africa alone, bandwidth increased 36% in the year, while in Sub-Saharan Africa it grew 39%. Submarine cables have been designed with vast capacity, and by mid-2015 barely 8% of capacity was being utilised. The total length of terrestrial infrastructure has also more than doubled during the last five years. Although these efforts have improved connectivity in many areas, and with it the social and economic benefits needed for sustained growth, much more investment is needed for local economies to capitalise on this growth into the future.

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These infrastructure programs are supported by sympathetic regulatory regimes which have encouraged shared infrastructure, facilitated cost-effective overhead cabling, and reduced wholesale access pricing. Some countries have fallen behind in these endeavours, with the inevitable result that diversity has emerged across the continent. Countries such as Morocco now have internet penetration of above 50%, though a number of others, such as Sierra Leone, have penetration rates below 2%.

A number of regional schemes have been developed affecting two or more neighbouring countries, usually with a view to extending submarine cable access to landlocked countries. Regional schemes include the East African Backhaul System (EABS), serving Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi which provide landlocked countries with access to submarine cables. Another is the Central African Backbone (CAB), a $215 million program funded by the World Bank and the African Development Bank to build fibre-optic infrastructure serving 11 countries in the Central African region. The World Bank reported that the disbursement rate of project funds in the Central African Republic had reached 78% by October 2014, while in Cameroon progress is being coordinated by national agencies including MINEPAT.

The region is also on the cusp of further leaps forward as a result of spectrum policies. Governments and regulators are making use of spectrum released from the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting. Although most of the region failed to meet the ITU's June 2015 deadline for ISO, the process will progress in coming months, and thus into 2016 and 2017 regulators will be in a position to auction these spectrum assets. Mobile network operators will then be able to improve their network capabilities, and drive mobile broadband deeper into non-urban areas.

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