Sub-Saharan Africa has the least mobile spectrum, a shortage that might hold up mobile expansion, according to a report by GSMA.
“Some countries apportion as little as 80MHz, compared to developed markets where allocation for mobile exceeds 500MHz,” the report dubbedSub-Saharan Africa Mobile Observatory 2012 said.
“With mobile Internet traffic forecast to grow 25-fold over the next four years, there will be a considerable increase in network congestion unless governments across the region take urgent steps to release new spectrum in line with the recommendations of the ITU’s World Radio communication Conference (WRC),” GSMA added.
Total mobile phone subscriptions in Africa has peaked at the 750 million mark and is expected to jump to one billion in the next three years. This is one of the biggest mobile phone subscription growths worldwide, though the average penetration of 54 percent is still lower than most regions globally.
Chris Williams, Deloitte telecommunications partner, said: “In many sub-Saharan African countries, mobile broadband is the only possible route to deliver the Internet to consumers. However, to maximise the potential gains, governments need to continue to support the development of mobile broadband, notably through the provision of appropriate spectrum.”
Williams also believes that if countries do not take measures to increase bandwidth then mobile congestion is inevitable and will lead to a slump in growth.
The report says that if the increase in spectrum is achieved, the sector could see an increase in jobs in certain countries in the region, including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Senegal and South Africa.
GSMA stated that mobile industry growth could also generate a GDP increase of US$40 billion, representing 0.54 per cent of total GDP, in the region by 2016.
Meanwhile, failure to harmonise spectrum allocations in the region could add up to US$9.30 in handset costs for African consumers. Spectrum release of the Digital Dividend would see 14.9 million jobs created between 2015 and 2020 in Sub Saharan Africa.