The big knock-down, drag out fight of industry talkfest AfricaCom 2014 was the Over-The-Top operators vs the mobile operators. In the event, the former arrived smiling and diplomatic, rather catching the more pugilistic of Africa’s mobile operators off-balance. Russell Southwood dips below the surface to take the temperature of Africa’s dazed and confused mobile operators.
A recently published report shows the stratospheric growth in African bandwidth over the last five years and the extent of the build-out of fibre networks. 44% of Africa’s population is now within reach of fibre networks.
Back in 2009 we reported that international bandwidth from Sub-Saharan Africa hadincreased from 11.3 Gbps in 2006 to 17.5 Gbps in 2007 to 26.1 Gbps. Overall international African bandwidth (including North Africa) was 96.3 Gbps in 2008. All this seemed very impressive at the time but is absolutely dwarfed by growth over the last five years.
Africa’s voice subscriber data may not always be reliable but it exists. The equivalent Internet data is extremely hard to find. Lack of data is equivalent of trying to cross a busy expressway in the complete dark. Russell Southwood looks at what’s available and argues that in a data future involving more than the mobile operators, there’s a crying need for regular data.
Payment methods and logistics challenges have made e-commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa (outside South Africa) more talked about than actual. But recent players in Nigeria have shaped the way things work to meet market conditions and are having promising signs of success. Russell Southwood spoke to Jeremy Doutte, CEO, Jumia Nigeria.
TNM’s Pasavute service is offering short-term, micro loans – Airtime Advances – to a staggeringly large number of its users. The sheer scale of use indicates that users find this kind of service extremely useful. Russell Southwood spoke to Sean Pashley, Net1 Mobile Solutions whose Supa Pesa platform drives the service.
LTE data services once seemed like a service that would only be for the larger markets in Africa. But LTE has now all but replaced WiMAX as the data delivery technology for wireless broadband for new implementations. Russell Southwood spoke to the co-owner of the Gambian ISP I-Link, Danny Isaac.
I-Link started in 2004 as a small Internet café and over the years has morphed into an IT services and hardware company before also wanting to add ISP services for corporates and high end home broadband users.
Facebook took Africa by storm and became the social media that everyone seemed to be on. Now Facebook is experimenting (with mobile operators) to use Facebook as the way of attracting first-time users to the Internet. Russell Southwood reviews Balancing Act research on social media use in four African countries and talks to Nicola D’Elia, Head of Growth and Partnerships, EMEA, Facebook on what it’s trying to achieve.
Liberalised markets create competition and that creates more operators in the market. But all those voice and data operators don’t usually operate in isolation: nearly all of them have to connect together to deliver voice and data. Russell Southwood spoke to Ike Nnamani, CEO of Medallion Communications about the the “carrier hotel” he provides.
In 2013 Balancing Act carried out a detailed market research study in seven Sub-Saharan countries in the vanguard of adopting the Internet and social media. The study has four parts – which are available for free as downloads – and looks at how the Internet and social media are changing Africa’s communications and media landscape. Russell Southwood highlights some of the key findings from the study.
The discussion about mobile operators making the transition to digital has been relatively muted. MTN said last year this would be the direction it would be going in but did not give details. This week I spoke to Raul Martinez, Commercial Director – Africa, Millicom who laid out their stall for the kind of changes it’s going to be making.