African Fixed Broadband Market – Regulators Continue Promoting Fibre-based Broadband – Expert Consulting

However, there is continuing progress being made to increase fixed-line connectivity, both at the backhaul and the local level. A number of new submarine cables are expected to land in both the eastern and western seaboards later in 2018 and into 2019, with local hubs at Djibouti, Angola and Nigeria. Countries such as the Ivory Coast stand to benefit from exploiting existing cable infrastructure: in April 2018 the operator of the Main One cable secured a licence to provide national and international connectivity services in the Ivory Coast, enabling the cable to be extended to a landing station in the country and be interconnected with existing terrestrial cables. A number of regional efforts are also underway to extend terrestrial infrastructure connecting neighbouring countries. Such projects include the 4,500km Trans-Saharan Backbone network connecting Algeria, Mali, Niger and Chad.

These projects are supported by sympathetic regulatory regimes as well as by governments which have come to understand the key functions of broadband connectivity for economic growth. Through this awareness countries are placing greater focus on their fibre-based national broadband plans. These efforts are supplemented by small-scale fibre operators which are beginning to expand their investments beyond the wealthy suburbs and business districts.

Taking their cue from policies adopted in Europe and elsewhere, regulators are formulating policies encouraging network sharing and access to ducts, thus facilitating the roll out of networks and reducing deployment costs. Key markets for these developments include South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Tunisia. In Nigeria, which aims to raise broadband penetration to 30% by the end of 2020 as part of the National Broadband Plan, the regulator in May 2018 encouraged each state to reduce excessive charges for access to telecom infrastructure, charges which are in violation of the tariffs recommended by the National Economic Council (NEC). The NEC placed a fixed price of NGN145 per meter for access, though some states charge up to NGN25,000. The regulator also noted that while the country had a fibre network running to 38,000kms it needed some 120,000km to provide universal broadband services.

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These efforts aimed at increasing the use of ICTs and developing broadband penetration are crucial to augmenting economic productivity and GDP growth, and further driving a range of benefits based on enhanced social inclusion.

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