Africa, The Home of Inexhaustible Telecomms Potential


America? No. Britain? No. China? NO!! The country with the fastest internet speed in the world is actually South Korea reaching 68,5Mbps, closely followed by Hong Kong (66Mbps) and Singapore (57,7Mbps), respectively! Internet speed is increasing in leaps in the past few years globally, with the average peak standing on 8.8Mbps in 2010 and today at a staggering 21.2Mbps. To put these digits at perspective, picture downloading a complete movie in around one minute! And in South Korea, well… about 13 seconds.

But while we stand in awe of the telecom network developments in the first world, we still have to bring our eyes back home and imitate the same systems to ensure we also profit from the connectivity mass. Enter the African Telecommunications Union (ATU)..

By Phinias Shonayi

In 1977, the ATU was born out of the need to develop telecommunication networks and services in an integrated and concerted way, and the need for speed in developing telecoms in Africa. Affiliated to the International Telecommunications Union, its objectives include:
• funding of telecommunications development
• African Telecommunications policy and framework promotion and development
• development of rural telecommunications
• the undertaking of studies in the field of inter-communication for the benefit of member states and associated members.

Early last month, Zimbabwe proudly hosted the 4th ordinary session of the ATU conference of plenipotentiaries (diplomats) where over 200 delegates from all over the world came to map the African Telecomms strategy for the next 4 years. ATU currently has 44 member states, Zimbabwe among the count.

ATU africa Telecommunications Union delegates Zimbabwe
Being a member of the Union ensures that when Zimbabwe takes a particular position in relation to international telecommunications, it can easily mobilize support from its African counterparts. We are not left out in terms of system development and standard compliance and uniformity.

The Telecoms sector is now one of the highest employers and contributes significantly to the GDP of all African countries. In Zimbabwe, the Telecomms sector currently contributes at least 10% of the nation’s GDP.

According to the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Hon. Webster Shamu, the 2014 theme, ‘Broadband for Sustainable Development’ is very relevant and fits well into our very own ZimASSET, scoring significant victories in the provision of basic voice services.

“By its very nature, broadband is an enabler of economic activity. It allows economic players to streamline their activities and helps them cut costs. Studies confirm the positive correlation between access of high speed broadband and economic growth,” he said.

Africa’s primary form of internet access is provided by broadband cables installed under the sea, but these mainly supply major cities. With 400million people without internet access at all, the continent is the world’s last major untouched market for internet access, less than 20% of her population actually use the internet, 43.1% in Zimbabwe.

According to the recent report drafted by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), Zimbabwe’s telecommunication sector has shown a positive trend over the first 2014 Quarter.
The growth in the internet market is an indication that this is the next frontier for service diversification as the voice market nears saturation, likely intensifying competition and fostering service innovation in the telecommunications sector.

Local operators continue to invest heavily in data and internet services mainly through optic fibre expansion projects. This is evidenced by the increase in available international bandwidth as a result of national backbone optic fibre expansion.

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