Africa telecoms

By Matthew Reed, Ovum

The number of mobile subscriptions in Africa will reach one billion by the end of 2016, according to figures from research firm Ovum. But even as the continent nears this landmark, its telecoms market is changing fast, and data and digital services rather than mobile voice and SMS will lead the next phase of development.

In the first decade of the 2000s, Africa underwent a mobile revolution as the roll-out of mobile networks across the continent brought communications technology to many for the first time. By the end of the decade, the mobile-money service M-Pesa was showing that mobile services might be able to plug some of the other gaps in Africa’s infrastructure, such as in financial services. Read more

By Costanza Gallo, TEDxRoma

Internet penetration in Africa is transforming business and society – as well as enabling the fight against diseases such as Ebola – at vastly different speeds across the continent. The infographic below provides an at-a-glance view of which countries are making the biggest strides.

In the three years from 2010 to 2013, there has been a marked rise in the number of people who enjoy access to the cybersphere, according to data compiled by the World Bank. South Africa’s Internet penetration, for instance, increased from 24 per cent to 49 per cent, ranking 3rd in Africa after Morocco and Egypt. Read more

“If you wake me up at 2 am and ask me what I am thinking about, the answer is power,” says Pankaj Kulshrestha, chief operating officer of Eaton Towers, one of a crop of infrastructure companies that have sprung up in the past five years to control some 15 per cent of Africa’s telecoms towers.

Such nighttime frets arise from the fact that telecoms towers – which much of Africa relies upon to enable internet access – need diesel-powered generators to keep humming. And the supply of diesel in sub-Saharan Africa is prey to theft, political upheavals and economic volatility.

As a result, the business model of “towercos” such as Kulshrestha’s, as well as the operation of some 170,000 telecoms towers and the provision of wireless internet for communications, banking and commerce in large swathes of the continent all hinge on the vicissitudes of the market in the fuel. Read more

That's the easy part

Africa’s mobile revolution has become synonymous with its improving economic performance, but the sector is hitting some serious road bumps along the way.

After five years posting the highest growth rates in the world, the uptake of new mobile subscriptions across the sub-Saharan region is set to slow, by the reckoning of a report from GSMA, an association of mobile operators. Read more

MTN is one of Africa’s most ubiquitous brands, its sunny blue and yellow logo peppering every street corner from capital cities to rural villages. Its biggest rival in home territory is Vodacom, currently in top spot with 47 per cent of the South African market. But their combined dominance is starting to grate local rivals and regulators. Read more

Mobile money services in Africa isn’t just all about M-Pesa in Kenya. Orange Mobile has just rolled out its first international mobile money transfer service between Mali, Senegal and Ivory Coast – the first such service in the region.

But there are some big players offering similar, rival services. Can Orange make a difference? Read more

Bharti Airtel, the world’s fourth largest mobile services provider by subscribers, announced on Tuesday that it is set to buy Warid Telecom Uganda, the Ugandan business of Abu Dhabi-based Warid Telecom.

The Indian service provider is already Uganda’s second largest mobile phone operator with 4.6m customers. And by adding Warid’s 2.8m customers, it will be raise its market share to over 39 per cent. Read more

For technology companies, Africa looks a lot like the final frontier. Mobile operators, search providers and phone manufacturers have all been racing to secure their share of the continent’s famously fast growing market as new undersea data cables and soaring mobile phone subscriptions reshape the continent’s connectivity.

Microsoft might have been operating on the continent for two decades, but it is no different. The world’s largest software maker is launching a comprehensive new strategy to expand internet access in Africa, positioning it to grow its business on the continent. Read more

China’s search giant Baidu announced on Monday that it has partnered with France Telecom-Orange to launch a co-branded browser for low-cost smartphone users across Africa and the Middle East.

The service compresses data to provide customers with a faster, more data-efficient service, while reducing the traffic on Orange networks at the same time. Launching in English and Arabic, it offers one-click access to web-based apps and internet services like Facebook and Twitter. Sounds good, but so what? Read more