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Africa set up for fibre broadband explosion

from SAVIOUS KWINIKA  in Cape Town
CAPE TOWN – STAKEHOLDERS in the continent have committed to accelerating the rollout of fibre across Africa.

This follows realisation that digitalisation and globalisation have made the fibre infrastructure industry more important and relevant than ever.

The commitments have been made at the just-concluded Africa Fibre Forum held in Cape Town.

At the event co-sponsored by Huawei and the World Broadband Association (WBBA), the prevailing theme was that having the right policies and ecosystems in place is key to accelerating fibre infrastructure deployment.

In line with this, many African countries and operators will launch more fibre strategies and establish practices in support of it, setting the continent up for a fibre broadband explosion.

During the forum, more than 100 industry leaders and experts, representatives from the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) of South Africa, major operators, vendors, associations (DCA and WBBA), and consultants held in-depth discussions on the key challenges of accelerating fibre coverage in Africa.

They discussed fibre strategy and policy and how to accelerate broadband adoption as well as promote the overarching broadband service economy in Africa.

“In order to accelerate fibre industry development, we must actively advocate for legislative changes that acknowledge the unique nature of fibre deployment,” said John Omo, the General Secretary of the ATU.

He said policymakers, industry experts and key stakeholders must engage in a collaborative dialogue to formulate policies that streamline regulatory processes, incentivize private investments, and encourage public-private partnerships that catalyze innovation and operational efficiency.

Philly Mapulane, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, raised concern at the report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that Africa has the slowest internet speeds globally, 195 percent slower than Europe’s average for mobile internet speeds and 418 percent slower than Europe’s fixed internet speeds.

“Investment in fibre is our best bet at turning the situation around,” Mapulane said.

“Digital infrastructure, in particular the fibre networks, is essential to support the digital economy and to harness opportunities offered by the emerging technologies and innovations.”

Martin Creaner, WBBA Director General, backed the call for greater collaboration across the ecosystem.

He noted the world would add another 243 million fixed connections over the coming five years, most of them fibre, so that by 2027, 32 percent of the global population would be connected, up from only 23 percent in 2020.

“The African continent is in the fast lane of broadband connectivity with a faster rate of growth and greater potential for growth than any other region of the world,” Creaner said.

“To realise this potential, we need to introduce more investors to the continent to fund connectivity initiatives, while encouraging regulators and governments to step up policies prioritizing fibre infrastructure rollout and sharing,” Creaner said.

WBBA is providing a worldwide platform for stakeholders to collaborate to address broadband development.

Samuel Chen, President of Southern Africa Carrier Network Business Group of Huawei, further emphasised the immense potential fibre holds for the continent.

“Connectivity is rapidly changing our lives, but compared with the global average, the penetration rate of access fibre in Africa is much lower, which restricts the digitalization process in Africa,” he said.

He nonetheless highlighted Africa’s broadband growth rate is the highest in the world.

Dietlof Mare, CEO of fibre provider Vuma, emphasised the mission must not merely be about installing fibre, but ensuring fibre connections of the right quality.

“In Africa, you cannot afford to take shortcuts on quality,” Mare said.

– CAJ News

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