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"Looking at the types of cellular networks installed in Africa, it's clear that voice communication is the primary area of interest for consumers on the continent," says Hendrik Bredenkamp, Manager: Mobile Systems, Ericsson Market Unit sub-Saharan Africa. "This should come as no surprise given the lack of telecommunications facilities on the continent."

Bredenkamp adds that while Europe is moving into full rollout of its 3G network and the US increases the amount of data travelling over its cellular bandwidth by large amounts each year, 98% of all cellular networks in Africa are GSM systems. That is not to say there is no need for cellular data capabilities on the continent, there certainly is; since the lack of standard voice infrastructure is nothing compared to the lack in the data space. Where data networks are being rolled out, however, they are targeted at specific areas and mainly used as fixed data solutions for example, within offices (WLL) and not for mobility.

Bredenkamp offers Nigeria as an example. Since MTN rolled out its GSM network using Ericsson equipment, it has managed to attract an amazing 1,8 million customers. That is phenomenal growth. Data access is being provided in Nigeria through CDMA 2000 networks, but a scant 90,000 users are signed up for this option - a mere 5% of the voice market.

* Mauritian Ashok Radhakissoon has been named as the new President of the Telelecoms Regulators Association of Southern Africa (TRASA). He also heads up the "conseil d'admininistration" of the Mauritian regulator ICTA...Enrique Portillo is leaving USAID.