by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – REGULATORS, experts and other industry players are exploring a common stand on spectrum management to ensure consistent, affordable and equitable internet access in Sub Saharan Africa.
Discussions have commenced during the sixth edition of the Sub Sahara Spectrum Management Conference.
Participants believe achieving consensus on spectrum management will play a major role in addressing shortfalls in a region where approximately 800 million people are not connected to the mobile internet.
Of those, some 520 million can access the mobile internet but struggle because of factors such as smartphone penetration and lack of skills while 270 million cannot access the mobile internet because they do lack the requisite coverage.
Across the region, less than half of the population is covered by 4G mobile broadband.
“We live in a time when we talk about digital as a default, about digital transformation of our societies and economies, and the need for a fully connected society,” said Mario Maniewicz, Director of the International Telecommunications Union’s Radio-communication Bureau.
Maniewicz added, “If this is to become a reality, broadband connectivity needs to be made accessible to all, even in the most remote areas.”
John Omo, Secretary General, African Telecommunications Union, echoed these needs.
He emphasised the need for collaboration and the ability to adopt common solutions.
The events of the past 18 months of COVID-19, he said, made that need more urgent.
“COVID-19 has kept people apart from each other, but spectrum on mobile networks have built bridges and kept us together,” Omo said.
“Whether we succeed in our quest to further bridge the digital divide and address other challenges is pinned on our dedication to duty and the extent to which we want to go in using spectrum to address these challenges.”
Samuel Chen, Vice President for Huawei Southern Africa, said radio spectrum played an important role in increasing Africa’s broadband penetration and throughput.
He said African countries can allocate more spectrum to operators to accelerate the deployment of wireless broadband networks and increase people’s access to wireless broadband and data services at affordable prices.
“This will in turn promote the development of Africa’s digital economy,” Chen said.
Among issues the conference addresses are the importance of the 700Mhz-800Mhz frequency bands for widespread coverage and the need to address the skills gap in installing the technologies that will enable the widespread adoption of spectrum.
– CAJ News