Africa has more than 300 million internet users and well over 650 million people who have access to mobile phone services.The exponential growth is definitely a shot in the arm for World’s poorest region in so many ways from job creation to economic benefits.Now, the continent is making a step in the right direction with 4G Long Term Evolution service expected to answer the need for high-speed broadband connection that will ensure a seamless flow of data in Africa.Internet-based cellular phones are becoming increasingly popular among Africans for daily communication, job and business related purposes.The speed, efficiency and practical reasons have driven more Africans to use Internet-based cellular phones even though most companies still prefer to use fixed Internet access. In Africa today, cellular Internet penetration is bigger than that of fixed network.Geographically, Africa is made up many undeveloped countries and this has made the setting up of a broadband fixed network difficult and costly. Cellular Internet is a solution because it is faster and more efficient.Africa is among the top two regions with the highest mobile Internet penetration in the world second only to Asia.A survey conducted recently shows that by the end of 2015, 301,456 million Africans were connected.
Connectivity has become an integral part of so many daily undertakings that it is nearly impossible for many Africans to function without the assurance that they are connected and their existence on the worldwide web is fully guaranteed.In regard to the use of the Internet for business-related purposes, the survey shows that 43 percent of companies operating in Africa used fixed broadband Internet access in 2015 compared to 28 per cent in 2014.Twenty seven percent of the companies use mobile broadband, the survey show.It said that 87 percent of foreign direct investors used a combination of fixed broadband and mobile broadband, accounting for 65 percent and 35 percent respectively.Amid the growing popularity of Internet-based cellular phones, however, Africa remains low in terms of Internet speed whereas, high-speed broadband connection is the prerequisite for ensuring a seamless flow of data in today’s era.Broadband connection is essential for government agencies with their e-government policies, businesses and educational institutions, as well as millions of digital citizens who cannot get away from connected gadgets in classrooms or at home.
The State of Broadband Africa report 2015 stressed the importance of broadband penetration to African countries, as it will play an important role in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).African countries aims at making broadband a global policy and that, all countries should have a National Broadband Plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access and Service definition.Different countries have yet to release a policy concerning 4G LTE services, which, according to operators, poses a challenge for developing broadband in Africa. 4G LTE services offer theoretical download speeds between 75 and 100 Mbps and typical download speeds from 3 to 12 Mbps, three times faster than 3G connection.Apart from the absence of regulation, another challenge facing African countries in regard to developing broadband is its geography and the only way to build such infrastructure is by installing a sub-oceanic cable communication system.In my view, developing broadband network will save tele operators who are suffering huge losses thanks to proliferation of Over The Top services like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber among others that are eating into their market leading to decline in their revenues.