By Emeka Aginam
Cape Town, South Africa—Although the number of smartphones in Africa currently stands at 160 million, according to the latest report by the GSMA, to achieve more mobile connectivity in the sub-Saharan Africa, two giant service providers, MTN and Etisalat have said that cost of 3G-enabled smart phones was still a key barrier to connectivity.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem.
Speaking yester during a keynote session on ‘The power to connect: Providing Access for All’ in Cape Town, South Africa at the ongoing GSMA Mobile 360 Series, the Executive Director, Group President and Chief Executive Officer of the MTN Group, Sifisco Dabengwa told the gathering that there was need to still bring the retail price of cheapest devices from fifty dollars to twenty dollars to achieve access to all.
According to him, there are many 3G enabled devices in the market but noted that affordability was still a challenge to many people in the region living below two dollars per day.
To further address the connectivity challenge, the MTN boss added that there was need for clear regulatory framework.
Pushing for more players in the industry to achieve last mile, he said that the government must make spectrum available ahead of time so as to meet demand.
“I think that in our region, across our continent, the relationship between operators, regulators and policy makers has probably not been optimal. In nearly every market there is a policy drive to get universal internet access, but then the availability of spectrum is probably the biggest issue,” he said.
Also speaking, the Deputy Chairman, GSMA, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Group, Ahmed Abdulkarim Julfar also said that cost of smart phones will be reduced for digital inclusion.
“There is need for the vendors to bring down cost of 3G enabled devices in the region. Device price is a challenge in the region. There is also need for infrastructure sharing, government support and alternative technologies in the region to drive connectivity” he said.
According to him, Africa has huge potentials for growth in mobile connectivity but noted that there was need for infrastructure sharing especially in the rural arrears to reduce the cost of deploying infrastructure.
The GSMA Mobile 360 Series is a capacity building conference held around the globe, with a specific focus on regional issues or current industry topics.