More Investment Is Needed For Afrika To Experience A Data Explosion

Speaking at the "Africa Panel Session" hosted by Nigeria's MainOne at the International Telecoms Week conference which was held from 14 to 17 May 2017, Afrikan telecommunications industry professionals and leaders highlighted the need to accelerate investment in Afrika in order to facilitate the continent's broadband data explosion. The panel was titled "Achieving A Connected Continent: Leading The Data Explosion Across Africa".

Panelists included representatives from Google, Facebook, WIOCC, Liquid Telecom and Angola Cables. They discussed strategies for achieving improved broadband access across Afrika.

Panelists for MainOne's Africa Session Panel at International Telecoms Week 2017
Panelists for MainOne's Africa Session Panel at International Telecoms Week 2017.

"As consumers in Afrika start to use the Internet for content, TV and on-demand services, mobile will have its limitations, not just in terms of technology, but also in price. We need to look at other technologies to achieve cost effectiveness." said Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecom. Rudnick was highlighting the need by those in the industry to go beyond mobile infrastructure as noted by his company's acquisition in 2017 of South Africa's Neotel for $429 million.

In recent years the continent has seen more and more investment into telecommunications infrastructure such as subsea fibre optic cables on both the east and west coasts but this has not yet necessarily filtered down to consumers as fast as it should in terms of pricing and Internet speeds. One such notable case is Egypt which has among the world's slowest Internet speeds with the country's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology also noting that this is as a result of, mainly, a lack of investment.

Facebook's Regional Head, Africa for Express Wi-Fi, Uche Ofodile shared on the panel about their experiences working with carriers to jointly make infrastructure investments and highlighted initiatives in Uganda, where it is working with Airtel to deploy fiber backhaul. Ofodile did however note that demand and favorable regulatory environments informed Facebook's decisions on whether to invest or not.

One of the key discussions by the panelists was about data center growth in Afrika where they indicated that uptake is not as rapid as experienced in other parts of the world. Notably, a lot of the content consumed in Afrika is hosted in Europe. MainOne explained that from their experience, they have observed that initial demand for data centres has been driven by large corporates and financial institutions.

It is refreshing and important thaf the discussions and investments around telecommunications infrastructure shift from mainly talking about mobile and more to areas such as fibre and data centres as these services have the potential to form a strong foundation for any economy.

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