Next Gen Wireless is Fueling African Developing Nation Growth

Next Generation Communications Blog

Next Gen Wireless is Fueling African Developing Nation Growth

By: Paula Bernier, TMC Executive Editor

There tends to be a prejudice in the press for covering the latest and greatest technology and how it is being used in the developed world. The reality is that especially when it comes to wireless, the impact of having ubiquitous and affordable access to communications, not just for voice but for data (aka the Internet), is busy transforming the developed world in ways that may be even more profound.

In fact, in the developing world, connectivity is the lifeblood of economic progress improving not just commerce itself but also the delivery of healthcare and as a tool for rapidly improving the education of young and old alike.  Data is where it is at, and 4G has become as important in the developing world as in the developed. 

A great example of this is in the work Alcatel-Lucent has done with aggressive mobile services provider Smile in Tanzania and the Ivory Coast.  One interesting factoid is that in Tanzania, for every 1 landline subscriber there are 166 mobile phone subscribers.  In short, the age old problem of increasing tele-density in the developing world as the engine for progress is being conquered and with impressive speed that has opened the eyes of many to the vast potential of all of Africa and other parts of the developing world. 

The short video embedded below tells the story.

“What we are doing is much more than just installing a mast or selling a cable. It has an impact on the people in this country. It gets a different kind of meaning, “notes Daniel Jaeger, Vice-President for Africa, Alcatel-Lucent.

Indeed, wireless access has demonstrable impact. A study of the World Bank claims that a 10 percent growth in the number of Internet users in sub-Saharan Africa will generate a GDP increase of more than 1.3 percent.  This leads to an observation of what happens when the percentage of users grows a lot more than 10 percent which is what the aforementioned landline to mobile comparison highlights. 

And, it is not just Africa where this phenomenon is occurring.  In the not too distant future there are forecasts that upwards of 70 percent of the world’s population of 7 billion people will have wireless personal communications capabilities.  In some countries the number of devices already exceeds the number of citizens.

What the Smile deployment also illustrates is that the point that giving the most modern infrastructure nationwide is good business.  Enabling people to use their phones for broadband data interactions as Smile’s competitive inroads indicate opens up significant revenue opportunities including the fact that as people become more device-centric they increase their usage as economic development enables them to have more money to spend. Where they are spending it is on wireless services. The reasons are obvious, e.g., in a connected world the value of ubiquitous access is as important, and in many ways more important, than other utility services like electricity. 

As outgoing Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes explains in discussing what’s next for Africa now that 4G LTE and Ultra-Broadband networks have enabled a positive political, economic and social change: “For me Africa is at the heart of tomorrow…Becoming digital is an important catalyst for change. The focus of development will continue to bring connectivity to users by working with local, regional and international partners to literally help ‘connect’ the African people."  

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