Telecoms in Africa – August 2012

August 31st, 2012, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

Compiled by Matthew White

Sierra Leone signs US$15-million Chinese loan to complete cable link

Sierra Leone has signed a US$15m loan agreement with China to complete its connectivity to the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) cable, the switch-on of which is reported to be imminent. The project is being implemented by Chinese company Huawei. Launched by France Telecom as part of a consortium with telecom operators in participating countries, the 17 000 km ACE cable will run from France to South Africa, connecting 23 countries either directly or indirectly and will provide a significant boost in broadband access.

Nigeria’s National Rural Telephony Project comes to grief

Nigeria’s US$200-million National Rural Telephony Project (NRTP) which was begun under former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration eleven years ago may be abandoned, despite a Ministry of Communications Technology statement that the project is still on course. Three Chinese companies, ZTE Corp, Huawei and Shangai Bell, were awarded the contract to take telephony services to the rural areas, but they ended up building only exchanges, despite the government having borrowed the money from the China Export Import Bank. In 2009, the Federal Government transferred the second phase of the project to a group of companies – G-cell Wireless, Hezomic Limited, Key Communications, Suburban Broadband and Voicewares Network – which were to build, operate and maintain the project in different zones under the lease, operate and own model. However, the contractors have not yet commenced work some four years after the contract was awarded. An official of one the companies told the Daily Trust newspaper the project is being hampered by lack of funds.

Zimbabwe’s Telecel spend US$70-million to expand network

Telecel has intensified its network expansion programme, which should see 85% of the country covered by the end of the year, according to CEO Francis Mawindi. This year the company will invest US$70-million, he said. In the Matabeleland region alone, the company has added 21 new base stations. It is also in the process of opening new offices in various parts of the country.

Namibia expands infrastructure to reduce telecoms costs

Following the landing of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) at Swakopmund early last year, Telecom Namibia is extending its infrastructure. One project includes four international points of presence (PoPs) to be connected to the WACS undersea cable. The installation will mean cheaper, more direct interconnections with other telecoms providers throughout the world, without the need for a route through third parties in South Africa, says Telecom Namibia MD Frans Ndoroma. The PoPs will be located in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Frankfurt and London. He says Namibia Telcom has also connected fibre-optic cables to Angola, Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.

Tanzania’s IT-backbone drives down internet costs

Tanzania’s national telecoms backbone has caused the cost of internet connectivity drop to as little as 15 US cents a day on a prepaid service, according to a statement issued by Seacom Communications. Anna Kahama-Rupia, MD of Seacom Tanzania, says that before 2009, charges for a dedicated fixed-line were between US$5000 and $10 000, meaning that only large businesses could afford access to broadband connectivity. Internet access for an ordinary private citizen was almost unheard of. “Today, many Tanzanians are paying as little as $15 a month to enjoy high-speed mobile access to the internet from their cellphones,” she said. “This includes the cost of voice calls. This has had an enormous transformative effect on education, entrepreneurship and social life in the country.”

Uganda announces plan to construct undersea cable

The government of Uganda has committing to building an alternative sea cable via Mutukula, Tanzania. Currently, Uganda relies on the Kenyan-based cable, which has been plagued by breakdowns. The Mutukula route will help lower the cost, provide high-speed internet bandwidth and enhance efficiency of service delivery to Ugandans, according to the director for technical services at the National IT Authority, Peter Kahiigi. He said the government has hired a private firm to oversee installation and management of the cable.

Airtel spends US$10-million to expand Zambian network

Airtel Zambia plans to invest about US$4-million to increase the number of 3,75G sites in Zambia. In addition, the company is also set to invest more than US$1-million to increase the number of sites in Chongwe district. Airtel MD Fayaz King says this is a result of demand caused by an increase in the number of Airtel customers.

More people have access to mobile phones than to clean water

More people worldwide have access to mobile phones than clean water, a bank account or electricity, according to the 2012 edition of the World Bank’s Information and Communication for Development Report. With about 6-billion mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, some three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants now have access to the technology. The report notes that mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human development, from providing basic access to education or health information to making cash payments and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes. Mobile applications not only empower individuals, but have important cascade effects by stimulating growth, entrepreneurship and productivity.

ITU promotes broadband internet in Africa’s poorest countries

Six African nations are set to be among the first to benefit from a new global wireless broadband infrastructure project, according to the International Telecommunication Union. The ITU is partnering with Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband equipment, to bring broadband access to the continent. Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new ebase stations worth US$1-million, to be deployed in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Djibouti, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland. ITU executive Brahima Sanou said there is a strong need to ensure developing countries are part of the global broadband revolution. “This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world – even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new development will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere.”


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