Leadership for transformation conference


African Broadband Revolution 2005- 6 to 8 April 2005, Johannesburg SA



BOOKSHELF-COMMUNICATION
Change the only constant in African telecoms

Published: 03-MAR-05

Amidst a flurry of new technologies like voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and various wireless platforms which promise to transform telecommunications, mobile telephony remains the main drawcard on the African continent, with the number of mobile subscribers in Africa expected to reach more than 100 million by the end of 2005.

This is among the highlights contained in African ICT market analyst BMI-TechKnowledge’s Communications Technologies Handbook 2004. Now in its 13th edition, the publication is a useful tool for those with an interest in the African communications sector, as it tracks the development and trends across the telecommunications spectrum on the continent.

Richard Hurst, editor of the handbook, subscribers has moderated slightly to roughly 40% for Africa, down from a 65% annual growth rate over the past fi ve years. This figure excludes South Africa, which has matured to around 30% growth per annum. “We have also seen a massive interest in fixed wireless technologies, while the mobile telephony juggernaut continues unabated,” says Hurst, who describes his book as “a cornucopia of information” in respect of the 27 African countries covered.

The editorial section of the Handbook provides a trends and development overview of issues affecting the telecommunications industry across Africa. An important point that the publishers make is that the emphasis in Africa is no longer solely on telecommunications, but on the broader arena of information and communications technologies (ICT). But while Africa is said to present one of the most fertile grounds for ICT investment anywhere in the world, the regulatory environment in several of the surveyed countries is not always the most enabling.

However, the VoIP wave takes little heed of existing regulations. Where the technology is banned or heavily regulated– mostly in countries trying to protect the revenues of an established provider – the technology simply goes underground. Some countries, like Mali, are cutting deals with VoIP operators to offer services using the incumbent’s bandwidth.

An ongoing challenge in Africa remains that of universal access, particularly in remote rural areas which are unappealing to mainstream operators. This is explored in some detail, as are the opportunities in southern and east Africa, where the mission to deliver bandwidth seems to be the catch phrase.

Other issues explored include the use of wireless and wire line solutions to extend coverage and the reach of telecommunications; of telecoms in Africa; the state of the Internet and IT markets in Africa; and ICT as seen from the NEPAD perspective.

Section Two of the book deals with to offer a complete summary of 27 individual country markets, providing country, as well as an analysis of the telecommunications market and regulatory. The selection of the countries profiled has been based on what BMI-T calls “a attractiveness of the telecommunications market to the reader.” What this means is in Africa are thoroughly covered, we are little the wiser to the smaller markets, where technologies like mobile is no less.

It is certainly useful to be able to access comprehensive data on the fixed and mobile network operator profi les and performance indicators, including service offerings and tariffs of network operators, internet indicators and internet Service Provider profi les. An attempt to include the smaller fi sh in the net in future editions would enhance the value of this book even further.

For ordering information, contact BMI-TechKnowledge at +27 11 540 8000 or visit the website www.bmi-t.co.za



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