Connected Africa concept note:
From 2G to 5G, Fibre to LTE, High-Throughput Satellite to C-Band Satellite, Virtualised Networks and everything in between, network connectivity is available in Africa but choosing the right coverage for the right environment is the key to success. There is no right solution, only the right solution for the right environment, resulting in multiple technologies employed across a network. Better connectivity equals bigger opportunity. Higher bandwidths result in wider service portfolios and increased data flow provides improved monetisation but all of these opportunities come with challenges:
- Network complexity naturally results in more challenging Security, Quality of Service, Network Operations and Maintenance, Vendor Management etc.
- Increases in service offerings create challenges around the management of Data flow for Billing, Customer Experience Management, Monetisation, Commercialisation, Service delivery, Supply Chain management
- Customers and stakeholders want a seamless experience and are becoming much more discerning around service capability, quality of service and customer experience.
Network Sharing, Wholesale Open Access Networks, Vendor Financing, Capex Free Networks and Shared Infrastructures are key approaches for helping operators to finance network developments. With a penetration rate of just 31.2%, there are still massive opportunities to improve connectivity and access to ICT in Africa. According to Buddecom, more than 90% of Africa’s internet connections are over mobile networks but continuing progress is being made in fixed-line connectivity at the local and backhaul level and this strong growth is expected to continue. Policy makers and regulators in Africa are adopting policies which will encourage infrastructure sharing to speed network rollouts and reduce costs. Spectrum freed from Digital Switchover is being re-purposed for Broadband use, driving adoption further into rural and under-served areas. Multiple developments in the satellite ecosystem are lowering prices, easing delivery, and improving bandwidths.
Cloud services are opening a wealth of opportunities for shared revenue and capex free platforms allowing companies to expand at their own pace and for operators and ISPs to expand their product and service portfolios. According to Cisco, cloud infrastructure is expected to see a 42% annual growth, far exceeding that of other regions. According to AfriHost “More and more businesses are taking their data and communication needs to the cloud as they feel more confident about the savings, security and flexibility offered by the cloud, as opposed to traditional local server solutions”.
IoT and M2M are high on Africa’s agenda. Smart Cities, Connected Devices, Always On connections present a valuable opportunity to leverage and monetise new business streams and improve quality of life for millions of citizens. Issues of security, network reliability and how to create new business streams are among the important questions we will be answering at the Connected Africa Summit.
Connected Africa brings our usual key decision makers together, from across Africa, to explore the opportunities and discuss the challenges to reducing complexity and simplifying a diverse ICT ecosystem. Operators want to improve coverage and reduce costs while increasing wallet share and retaining clients. Major End Users are looking to ICT to help them to improve efficiency, save costs, improve collaboration across their entire value chain, drive innovation and improve delivery of their own services. Policy makers and Regulators will understand how their policies can support the necessary evolutions while tech and connectivity providers will present the latest product, service and commercial solutions.
With around 60% of Africa’s population living in rural areas, expanding coverage in these areas provides a valuable future revenue stream for operators. Of course, rural areas are difficult to reach, often off the national power grid, can only be accessed across difficult terrain and communities are small and widely dispersed with low levels of cash income. Innovative approaches are required to support and encourage operators to invest in providing connectivity to these customers where the short term return on investment is perceived to be low but the long term profits and national development benefits will be significant.