Broadband access is improving in West Africa, but how to seize the opportunities it brings? Thecla Mbongue, Senior Analyst at Ovum and speaker at Connecting West Africa 2015, gives her views on West Africa’s broadband markets.
Investment in broadband networks is still going strong in the region. On the mobile side, 3G networks are still expanding: “In 2015, we are expecting further expansions of 3G networks in West Africa, which are now live in all West African countries but often with limited coverage. We forecast the number of 3G subscriptions to increase by around 42% this year to exceed 61 million.” says Thecla. Beyond 3G, other technologies are beginning to make their marks: “Operators also focus on higher speed broadband networks such as LTE or FTTx. LTE was live in Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire end-2014, while Senegalese operators also run trial networks. The digital broadcast migration completion will play a key role in boosting LTE deployments as we expect more spectrum to be released.”
The next key question for operators is how to generate revenues from this investment, with new types of services: “Large groups have hinted they are now increasing focus on digital services” says Thecla, mentioning in particular Internet and social networks access, locally relevant applications, video and music streaming. In addition, “better data connectivity and take up of mobile financial services will also help growing e-commerce services.”
Which players are most active in the field of digital services? Thecla mentions international groups MTN and Millicom as particularly interesting, citing their involvement in the e-commerce through the AIH joint-venture, which powers platforms such as Jumia. Accessibility and affordability of new services are equally important, as Thecla gives special credit to operators who are segmenting tariffs in order to give access to data services efficiently: “Innovation”, she says, “does not only lie in the service provided but also in making the service easily accessible.”
Beyond operators, a new digital landscape is emerging: “improved broadband access has redefined the way people communicate between each other in the region but also the way enterprises, governments, institutions and service providers interact with their customers and /or audiences or the way and the speed at which information becomes available to end-users”.
In this context, traditional stakeholders such as telecom operators need to re-consider their position in the ecosystem if they want to remain relevant. New strategies and new partnerships are required to sustain a position in the digital market: something that will be at the centre of discussions at Connecting West Africa.
Thecla Mbongue is a Senior Research Analyst in Ovum’s Middle East and Africa team and has a key focus on mobile operator and vendor strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. She will give a presentation on trends and forecasts in the region’s telecommunications market at Connecting West Africa on 9th June.