|Large parts of Africa have gained access to international fibre bandwidth via submarine cables for the first time in recent years. In other parts of the continent, additional fibre systems have brought competition to a previously monopolised market. This has led to massive investments into terrestrial fibre backbone infrastructure to take the new bandwidth to population centres in the interior and across borders into landlocked countries.
Africa’s Internet and broadband sector is set to benefit the most from these developments. Wholesale prices for Internet bandwidth have come down by as much as 90% from previous levels based on satellite access, and the cost savings are slowly being passed on to the retail level as well. Broadband is rapidly replacing dial-up as the preferred access method, and this process is already virtually completed in the continent’s more developed markets.
Most African countries now have commercial DSL services, but their growth is limited by the poor geographical reach of the fixed-line networks. Improvements in Internet access have therefore been mostly confined to the capital cities so far. However, the rapid spread of mobile data and third-generation (3G) broadband services is changing this, with the mobile networks bringing Internet access to many areas outside of the main cities for the first time.
Many fixed-line incumbents have reacted by rolling out fixed-wireless access networks to expand their geographical reach. The technology of choice has been CDMA-2000 which supports broadband data rates with an upgrade to EV-DO standard. WiMAX technology, however, offers higher data rates and has gained ground in Africa with well over 100 networks already in operation. Fibre to the Home (FttH) services have been deployed in some African cities. And also traditional copper fixed lines and DSL have seen a renaissance in some markets on the back of an increasing demand for broadband access.
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Fibre networks are sustaining growth in Africa’s Internet and broadband sector