Africa expected to have 4G networks as early as 2012
Mobile carriers worldwide are steadily upgrading to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks that support high-speed wireless services as an increasing number of consumers use tablet computers and Smartphones to access the internet. Due to Africa’s growing mobile phone market, an Ericsson executive believes the African market will have its first LTE (better known as 4G) network as early as 2012.
Initially, the network would be unveiled in the larger urban centers where the demand for high speed internet access is constantly growing.
“You will see the first networks going in 2012 already to a certain small degree,” said Lars Linden, head of Ericsson in sub-saharan Africa to Reuters. “It will surprise me if the big dragons such as MTN, Vodacom, (Bharti) Airtel and all these big brands, it will surprise me if they do not do anything,” Linden told Reuters.
Africa’s poverty levels mean that many users remain lower end text and call users. There is however an increasingly tech-savvy market growing among the younger people in Africa, increasing the demand for data availability in the continent.
African telecom giants MTN and Vodacom are already running trials in South Africa and Kenya’s Safaricom is also testing the technology.
Furthermore, taxes imposed on the mobile industry in many African states should be reduced to drive an increase in mobile penetration, as well as, in many cases, ultimately increase the total tax intake for governments. The Kenyan government's abolition of the 16 per cent general sales tax on mobile handsets in 2009 has resulted in handset purchases increasing by more than 200 per cent. With mobile operators contributing a third more in taxes in 2011 than in 2009, mobile generated around 8 per cent of Kenya's GDP.
Other regional success stories include Nigeria, which has the highest number of mobile subscriptions in Africa - over 93 million subscriptions, representing 16 per cent of the continent's total mobile subscriptions.
South Africa, with its more developed infrastructure, leads the way in terms of broadband penetration: it has 6 per cent mobile broadband penetration, followed by Morocco as the next biggest market, with 2.8 per cent.
Meanwhile Kenya is at the forefront of Mobile Money Transfers and m-banking, with 8.5 million users. For example, Safaricom in partnership with The Equity Bank in Kenya provides customers with an M-KESHO account allowing them to save money, buy insurance and arrange micro-finance loans.
Lyons continued, "By working in partnership, mobile operators and African governments can continue the remarkable growth story of the African mobile industry. The benefits that mobile services have already brought to hundreds of millions of Africans can be extended to those who have yet to access communication technology. By so doing, the African continent can continue to bring not only communication services, but also banking, health and education to its people and drive an increase in the economic wealth and development of the region."