Airship

30% Rise in African Connections

David Murphy

The GSM Association (GSMA), the global trade body for the mobile industry, has revealed that the number of mobile connections in Africa has risen by 70 million to 282 million in the past 12 months.  Mobile operators have ramped up investment in the region, extending GSM coverage to reach an additional 550,000 sq. km, occupied by 46 million people. The broadening coverage, coupled with the falling cost of mobile communications, is enabling tens of millions of Africans to become connected for the first time in their lives. Africa has only 35 million fixed lines.
Africas mobile industry is delivering on its promise to blanket the continents inhabitants with coverage, giving tens of thousands of rural communities their first opportunity to realise the substantial social and economic benefits of mobile communications, said Tom Phillips, GSMA Chief Government & Regulatory Affairs Officer, speaking at the ITU Telecom Africa event in Cairo. However, over 300 million rural Africans do not yet have mobile coverage. They live in an area the size of China, India and the USA combined. Developing sustainable business models to serve these communities is a great challenge, which requires the mobile industry and African governments to work together.
At the ITUs Connect Africa summit in Kigali in October, the GSMA announced that mobile operators plan to invest more than $50 billion (26 billion) in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years to provide more than 90% of the population with mobile coverage. To realise the full social and economic benefits of this investment, African governments need to ensure that sufficient spectrum is available, particularly for mobile broadband services. Governments also need to tackle mobile-specific taxes, high licence fees, international gateway monopolies and other regulatory bottlenecks that constrain the competitiveness of African business.
Theres a great deal of enthusiasm among network operators for extending their coverage in Africa. Marc Rennard, Executive Vice President, Orange - France Telecom Group, says:
Around 75% of the population is covered in most African countries where Orange operates and we intend to reach 90% coverage with the same level of quality by 2010 to serve untapped areas.
Its a similar story at Zain, where CEO Dr. Saad Al Barrak says:
Zain will build its own fibre capacity backbones, where necessary, to speed up delivery and increase affordability of telecom services. Zain believes that such investments across sub-Saharan Africa will also have a positive economic and social impact.
Finally, Naguib Sawiris, Chairman and CEO of Orascom Telecom, says:
We have created a new subsidiary, Telecel Globe, which will reinvest in Africa's smaller countries. Telecel Globe will be fully staffed on. Orascom Telecom will only support its procurement power and commercial know-how. We call on African governments to reduce the taxation and regulatory burden on mobile users so we can maximise the positive impact of this investment.