By Emeka Aginam
The GSMA, representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide at the ongoing African Telecommunication Union ( ATU) Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit in Kenya Naiobi has called on African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania to urgently release harmonised spectrum for mobile broadband, saying that it was vital for the economic and social development of sub-Saharan Africa.
The Director of Spectrum Policy, Africa and Middle East of GSMA, Peter Lyons in a telephone conversation with Vanguard Hi-Tech disclosed that harmonised spectrum for mobile broadband would expand the reach and availability of affordable broadband services and help realise significant economic and human development gains for sub-Saharan Africa.
Lyons said that mobile voice and SMS services have made major economic contributions to sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade and accounted for 3.5 per cent of regional GDP by 2010.
“African governments must act now to release much-needed spectrum for Mobile Broadband services if they are to meet the UN’s 40 per cent broadband target.
“Increased spectrum will lower the cost of mobile devices, improve speed of data communication, and ultimately help nearly 40 million Africans escape poverty.”
“By licensing spectrum in the Digital Dividend and the 2.5GHz bands for Mobile Broadband, governments in the region have the opportunity to increase total spectrum available by approximately 70 per cent.
“In particular, the Digital Dividend band, which is currently used for analogue television broadcasting, offers widespread mobile broadband coverage in rural areas and improved indoor penetration in urban areas. In rural areas alone, the Digital Dividend band could deliver Mobile Broadband service to between 40 to 80 per cent of the population.
“If governments in sub-Saharan Africa allocate more spectrum for Mobile Broadband over a 10-year period from 2015, this would result in US$235 billion of additional GDP and US$50 billion in additional tax revenue: he added.
According tom him, if the release of spectrum is delayed by five years, these benefits would fall to US$50 billion in additional GDP, and US$10 billion in additional tax revenue.
Action is required now to secure the future connectivity and economic empowerment of Africa’s citizens.” Lyons said.
While the effects of broadband internet access are just beginning to be felt across the region, he said that its importance has been recognised by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development which has set a global broadband challenge to ensure that 40 per cent of households in developing countries are using broadband internet by 20153.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the lack of fixed line telecom infrastructure means that Mobile Broadband services will be essential in achieving this target, he said
The GSMA expects that there will be 240 million Mobile Broadband connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015, compared to just 4 million fixed broadband connections4.
Currently, just 80MHz of spectrum is available for delivering Mobile Broadband service in a typical African market.
In contrast, mobile operators in many middle and high-income markets have access up to 400MHz of spectrum for delivering Mobile Broadband.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organisations. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Congress.
Meanwhile, new findings from a report by the GSMA and Plum Consulting have revealed that release of Mobile Broadband spectrum in the Digital Dividend and the 2.6GHz bands by 2015 in sub-Saharan Africa could create up to 27 million new jobs.
The report also revealed that it would also increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 5.2 per cent which will directly lift 40 million people out of poverty by 2025; and increase GDP and government tax revenues by US$82 billion and US$18 billion per year respectively by 2025.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organisations.