Mobile Network Infrastructure in Algeria: 4G paving the way forward Big growth in a short space of time
Algeria has certainly come a long way since the introduction of mobile communications to its shores. A country that has been riddled with political and social unrest in recent years has seen major growth in its mobile industry following deregulations of the telecommunications market at the beginning of the 21st century. This meant that a large proportion of the population were finally able to connect to the global telecommunication network, and by the end of 2011 there were over 35 million mobile subscribers. When you compare these numbers to the measly 5 million in 2004, you get an idea of what this rapid seven-fold increase means for the mobile industry in the largest country in Africa!
Fast forward a few years and Algeria's mobile penetration has already exceeded the 100% mark, making it one of the countries with the highest teledensities in Africa! And to think, all of this possible even after Algeria was the last country in North Africa to deploy a 3G network. This was largely due to the delayed privatisation of Algerie Telecom (Algeria's state owned MNO) being called off after its competitor, Lacom, cited regulatory barriers that made it impossible to compete. Nevertheless, the regulator finally awarded the country's 3 current MNO's, Algerie Telecom's Mobilis, Orascom's Djezzy and Wataniya's Ooredoo 3G spectrum licenses at the end of 2013.
With competition between the operators and mobile penetration as high as it is, the rollout of 3G networks has faciliated a change of focus of the MNO's to developing ARPU and investing in mobile data services. The 3 operators have all successfully jumped onto the 3G bandwagon with Mobilis looking to deploy an additional 20,000km worth of fiber-optic cables by the end of 2015. Djezzy, a 51% stake of which was recently acquired by the Algerian government, managed to sign 60000 3G subscribers in 2 weeks after deploying its first 3G network earlier this year, and Ooredoo has extended its 3G coverage to 70% of Algeria's population. The nation's mobile industry is thriving and the government has recognized the role it needs to play by pledging to invest €100 million into national fiber and mobile network infrastructure to 2014. This growth has paved the way forward for operators looking to cash in on the mobile boom and invest in other technologies, namely 4G LTE.
4G the way forward for Algeria
With the help of the fastest growing provider of 4G systems in 2013, Shenzhen-based telecomms provider ZTE, Algerie Telecom is leading the charge in taking Algeria into the 4G era. Responsible for the infrastructure in 14 provinces, ZTE is set to provide consumers and businesses alike with reliable, high-speed data connectivity, which is also the first 4G network to be deployed in North Africa and is seen as a key milestone in the development of Algeria's telecommunications industry! Fixed wireless LTE was launched earlier this year in May with mobile 4G set to be rolled out in 2015.
Challenges facing Algerian operators
The rollout of 3G and the imminent deployment of 4G networks paints a pretty optimistic picture for Algeria's mobile future, but such rapid growth always comes with its own challenges and problems. In developing countries, high data costs are usually the primary inhibitor for the successful adoption of 3G. This coupled with lack of education on using data services leads to users becoming reluctant to upgrade from traditional feature phones. Operators need to educate consumers about the benefits of data services to help users justify spending a higher share of their disposable income on telecom services.
As the infrastructure to facilitate these technologies continue to be deployed operators need to ensure quality of service. By providing subscribers with a good user experience when using mobile internet services, users will be encouraged to use it more frequently which means greater returns for telcos. As the device used to access these services, smartphones and the high costs thereof need to be brought down in order to facilitate the move from feature.
Source: AMGOO 15 September 2014