BY EMEKA AGINAM
At the just concluded World Economic Forum held in Abuja, Nigeria, Charles Ding, Huawei global Vice President has said with optimism that mass deployment of fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband can help bring more Africans online, grow her Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) and job creation.
The Huawei VP for Africa who spoke to World Presidents, ICT Ministers , Economic experts and resource persons during a panel discussion on new solutions to bring all Africa online at WEF told the gathering that there were several advantages of making building LTE networks a strong case in Africa.
Fixed-line infrastructure in Africa limited:
“First, fixed-line infrastructure in most African countries is limited and underdeveloped. According to ITU, fixed broadband penetration in Africa is only 0.3%.
“Therefore, upgrading from existing fixed-line infrastructure will be more costly and less effective. Second, building mobile networks can significantly enlarge broadband coverage to people living in rural and underprivileged urban areas, because LTE users are always connected wirelessly to fast, responsible, and reliable data network.
“Third, constructing LTE networks can make effective use of existing equipment and technologies, and therefore lower the cost of initial investment. Finally, LTE-enabled devices become increasingly more affordable.
Replication of success factor:
Believing that the successful experiences in mobile broadband can be replicated to other parts of the developing world, he informed the audience that Huawei has worked with their partners in Africa and rolled out several LTE networks over the past few years.
“For example, Nigerian carriers Swift Networks and Spectranet worked with us to provide a smooth migration from their existing WiMAX based networks to LTE in Nigerian capital, Lagos.
In the case of Swift, we helped them upgrade to the new TD-LTE network in 2013, which doubled the throughput of old WiMAX network.
“The cost-reduction measures by Swift and the added capacity of LTE allows Swift to offer lower data pricing for consumers.
“ For example, a 20GB (gigabyte) family plan costs $35 a month, and individual plan starts from only $3 a month, a significant reduction in price from previous $80 per month” he explained.
Restates commitment to Africa:
Assuring on Huawei commitment to Nigeria and the rest of the African sub-region on capacity building and network infrastructure building, he said that part of Nigeria’s LTE network has already shown signs of congestion, indicating more and more Nigerians are subscribing to LTE services for a variety of purposes.
What Nigeria can do:
For Nigeria to reap the benefits of knowledge economy, higher capacity and more networks are needed in the near future.
He suggested that public and private sectors should work more closely to continue the momentum of rolling out LTE networks, particularly in rural Africa.
One thing that governments can do, according to him was to better regulate spectrum allocation, and free up spectrum in lower frequency bands.
He further suggested that governments may want to share some of the cost associated with constructions of mobile broadband networks, because it not only creates new jobs and business opportunities, but it brings about the chances for social improvement and betterment.
“Huawei is working hard with our partners on all fronts to build a better connected Africa, because we believe that ICT technologies, particularly mobile broadband, are reshaping Africa and other parts of the world, and leading the next wave of sustainable social development.” he told the gathering.
While commending Huawei success stories in Africa, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance said that, “We appreciate Huawei’s plan of establishing ICT scholarship in some Nigerian Universities”
Similarly, H.E. Mr Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire noted that , “Huawei has made great performance in 2013. The launch of Huawei P7 Smartphone is another success to show Huawei’s leading technology. We thank Huawei for its efforts of introducing high technology solutions to Côte d’Ivoire. Huawei is welcomed to bring more experience and skills to local society”
For Mr Moussa Mara, Prime Minister of Mali, Huawei should build more capacity in Africa especially in Mali. “We welcome Huawei to push more projects between China and Mali.”
“We welcome Huawei to do more contribution to Togo on skills transferring, local talent cultivation and training.”, H.E. Ms Cina Lawson, Minister of Posts and Digital Economy of Togo said.