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Why broadband is still expensive in Africa, by Makau

By Nnamdi Ojiego

An Information Technology expert, Mr Tom Makau has given reasons why the cost of broadband and other ICT infrastructure are still high in Africa even with the arrival of undersea cables.

He said though, Africa has witnessed an unprecedented growth in internet and VPN connectivity in the last 5 years through the launch of several satellites serving the continent and the landing of a number of submarine cables on African shores, that a lot still needed to be done to make broadband in the continent more affordable, because the rapid uptake of mobile internet has increased penetration and awareness of the merits of being online.

According to him, broadband is still expensive in Africa because the continent does not share the same Internet history with the rest of the world coupled with the high costs of laying cables in Africa, stressing that the prices would remain relatively high compared to other regions due to the high CAPEX and OPEX of infrastructure in Africa even with the arrival of fiber capacity.

Mr Makau who was speaking on the topic “VSAT is Dead?”, at the Information Access and Collaboration Conference, 2010 held recently in Lagos by IwayAfrica Nigeria Limited, revealed that some Internet Service Providers, ISPs have tried to emulate US and EU pricing without considering these historical facts, making the ISPs start offering poor services as they struggled to stay afloat in the business.

He said the liberalization of telecom sector and diminishing dependency on the incumbent operators has ensured that end users have a variety of last mile technologies to chose from; ensuring that power was shifted from provider to customer, and arrival of more international capacity.  He added that price wars among ISPs have intensified ISPs shifting from offering what he described as dumb pipes to smart pipes to their customers.

The IT expert said for ISPs to offer lower prices to customers without compromising service quality, Africa must develop and host local content and applications.

This was in addition to the markets providing critical numbers needed to take advantage of economies of scale, even as the regulatory environment must be fair to operators.

Speaking further, Mr Makau who is Customer Service Manager at IWayAfrica Services Limited, Kenya disclosed that VSAT is one thing that would reduce the cost of broadband in Africa. According to him, the exponential growth of VSAT in Nigeria and the world as well as the fact that many big corporate entities in the developed parts of the world still use it shows that it’s a superior technology and not a dead one.

He said VSAT would remain relevant in Nigeria and the rest of the world because it offers reliable services to true private networks. “VSAT still offers unrivaled reliability over any other access technologies. No technology offers higher uptime than VSAT. Even in the most wired markets, VSAT offers better value proposition to security minded organizations.

“VSAT offers ubiquitous, instant coverage over large geographical areas, uniform service deployment and faster deployment than other technologies. It is more cost effective than terrestrial systems, which include bundled bandwidth, lower total cost of ownership and so on

The CSM however, explained that IwayAfrica was already offering over 580Mbps of capacity over the NSS7, NSS5, NSS12, IS10 and Galaxy 11 satellites to make broadband affordable.

“iWayAfrica through its parent company, Telkom South Africa now has access to a lot of capacity on the SAT3 and EaSSy submarine cables. This places iWayAfrica at pole position as the total communications solutions provider in Nigeria”, he added.


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