WACS international fibre optic cable sets the stage for a broadband boom in Namibia
Namibia was one of the last countries in Africa to introduce competition in the mobile communications sector when a second network finally launched in 2007. Despite this, the country has achieved a market penetration rate well above the regional average, according to Research & Markets. However, the average revenue per user has more than halved since then.
Both GSM operators – MTC (managed by Portugal Telecom) and Cell One (renamed Leo by its new owner, Orascom) – have entered the internet and broadband market with 3G mobile broadband services in a bid to create new revenue streams. MTC introduced fourth generation (4G) technology to the market in May 2012 when it launched an LTE network in the capital, Windhoek. In addition, Telecom Namibia (TN) is offering 3G mobile broadband services using EV-DO technology.
Fixed-line services are still a monopoly of TN, but as a member of the WTO the government plans to open the telecom sector to full competition. TN entered the lucrative mobile market as the third player with a CDMA network but was put on hold by the industry regulator, the Namibian Communications Commission, until a new communications law was enacted which, among other issues, addresses fixed-mobile convergence. Since then, however, the absence of effective regulation during the transition to a new regulatory authority, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, has led to further delays in market liberalisation.
Despite being reasonably competitive with six ISPs, development of Namibia’s internet and broadband sector has been held back by high prices for international bandwidth, caused by the lack of a direct connection to international submarine fibre optic cables. This changed in early 2011 when the WACS cable landed in the country, with services launched in May 2012. In parallel, Namibia is working to diversify its transit access routes via neighbouring countries, but broadband price reductions on the retail level have only been moderate so far.
The country is well prepared for a broadband boom, with 3G and 4G mobile services and a national fibre backbone infrastructure in place. Several WiMAX and other wireless broadband services offer additional access options and are standing by to bring additional competition to the voice market as well, once internet telephony is deregulated.