Greater Investment in Local Networks Can Drive Broadband Data Explosion in Africa

By Irene Gaitirira
Published May 27, 2017

MainOne roots for greater investment in network infrastructureBroadband data explosion cannot happen in Africa without increased investment in network infrastructure.

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Discussing strategies for achieving improved broadband access across Africa, experts drawn from Google, Facebook, WIOCC, Liquid Telecom and Angola Cables meeting at the International Telecoms Week conference in Chicago, USA, have highlighted the need to accelerate investment in Africa to facilitate the continent’s broadband data explosion.

Based on the theme “Achieving A Connected Continent: Leading The Data Explosion Across Africa”, the experts reviewed the state of broadband infrastructure and data traffic trajectories in various countries on the continent and made comparisons to other markets globally. This included areas in which investments had been made such as submarine cables, data centres, and access networks, including 3G4G and FTTH networks, as some of the elements that have accelerated the growth in data traffic on the continent.

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Nic Rudnick, CEO, Liquid Telecoms; Uche Ofodile, Regional Head, Africa Express Wi-Fi, Facebook; Artur Mendes, CCO, Angola Cables; Funke Opeke, CEO, MainOne; Chris Wood, CEO, WIOCC and Chris George during the International Telecoms Week conference in Chicago, USA.The experts, speaking on a panel, concurred that the data explosion will need to be driven by further investment in local networks to reach more end users rather than new submarine cables. While most African submarine cable systems had the capability to deliver 100 GBPS wavelengths, the panelists observed, Africa has not utilised near enough capacity to saturate those systems. They argued that there is need for continued investment and innovative business models to aid the rapid deployment of Access networks across the continent for broadband to become more pervasive.

Uche Ofodile, Facebook’s Regional Head in charge of Africa for Express Wifi, shared the company’s experiences working with carriers to jointly make infrastructure investments and highlighted its initiatives in Uganda, where it is working with Airtel to deploy fiber backhaul, but noted that demand and favorable regulatory environments informed their decisions to invest.

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Nic Rudnick, the CEO of Liquid Telecom whose company has just completed its acquisition of South African operator, Neotel, for US$429million, stressed the need to go beyond mobile infrastructure.

Assessment the growth of data centres in Africa, the experts concluded that uptake is not as rapid as experienced in other parts of the world and that most of the content consumed in Africa is still hosted in Europe.“As consumers in Africa start to use the internet for content, TV and on-demand services, mobile will have its limitations, not just in terms of technology, but also in price,” Nic Rudnick said. “We need to look at other technologies to achieve cost effectiveness”.

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Assessment the growth of data centres in Africa, the experts concluded that uptake is not as rapid as experienced in other parts of the world and that most of the content consumed in Africa is still hosted in Europe.