Mobile and fixed telephony subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to soar given the incremental demand of mobile voice and Internet services, a study by Frost & Sullivan shows.
According to the study, a rise of 266 million and 77.5 million in mobile and fixed telephony subscribers and Internet subscribers respectively is expected by the year 2017.
There were 181.7 million mobile and fixed telephony subscribers and 29.8 million Internet users in 2010, the study showed.
Frost & Sullivan said that most of African telecoms are spending massively on rolling out new high-speed networks, such as Kenya’s Safaricom and South Africa’s Vodacom, Telkom, MTN and FibreCo.
According to Chantel Lindeman, Frost & Sullivan’s ICT business unit leader for Africa, growth of voice and Internet markets in Africa is expected to be driven by a decline in retail prices for these services.
“It is expected that this will result in the availability of higher network capacity at lower cost‚ with operators spurring growth by passing savings on to the users‚” she said.
Africa has seen resolutions to increase capacity and demands for faster broadband Internet, while in the past four years installations of undersea cables have seen wholesale bandwidth prices plummet.
In several countries, including Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, administrations have resorted to investing significantly in mobile telephony and Internet infrastructure to enable seamless converged communications.
Lindeman said that the key challenge facing service providers in Africa is the low disposable income of the majority of users who cannot afford high-priced devices or expensive subscriptions.
Various telecoms firms such as Safaricom and Airtel in Kenya are engaged in rows with governments, demanding tax subsidies on mobile phones‚ laptops and smartphones to lower the cost of access to Internet services.
This is expected to push the mobile network operators to extend their range of Internet access packages to accommodate more consumers, according to Lindeman.