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Urgent need for pervasive Broadband Access Network

November 14, 2013 • Mobile and Telecoms, Southern Africa

The digital world requires faster broadband delivered on a quality network. MTN is heading the call with plans to connect every customer to the digital space.

Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, Chief Enterprise Business Officer at MTN South Africa. (Image source: File)

Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, Chief Enterprise Business Officer at MTN South Africa. (Image source: File)

Broadband is still behind and this requires insurmountable investments to ensure economic growth, improved access to information and services such as commerce and education.

These investments include submarine cabling, affordable smart-devices, fibre infrastructure and services.

According to Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, Chief Enterprise Business Officer at MTN South Africa, Africa is well positioned in the broadband race thanks to substantial mobile network investment. He cautioned that major investment is still required in Africa to remain globally competitive.

However, a lot of challenges are preventing Africa’s potential to provide quality connectivity to its millions of people. This include Africa’s lack of funding, labour intensive infrastructure projects, various regulatory challenges, and historically limited infrastructure expansion and spectrum allocation bottlenecks.

Furthermore, Africa is facing additional challenges for devices such as import costs and OEMs have limited distribution resources in the continent.

Despite these challenges, Africa has a larger, younger, more affluent population benefiting from commodity wealth that is interested in staying in big cities and this could be the catalysts for mobile broadband in the continent.

“Mobile and wireless will dominate broadband in Africa, but investment in fibre is key to ensuring that everyone is provided with quality broadband.  However, shared infrastructure models will work better in Africa taking into consideration sparse population of 1 billion people,” explains Lambotharan.

For Africa to become a world-class contender in the provision of quality broadband, Lambotharan contends that the continent should adopt policies that have a direct positive impact on broadband investment and positive take-up of services from businesses and consumers. It has to build a pervasive Broadband Access Network and build it fast. “One way to do this is to avoid creating highly fragmented markets but adopt an approach that promotes significant consolidation activity around fibre and spectrum assets to deliver on the broadband promises of a digital world.”

“A delicate mix between infrastructure and service-based competition, incumbents and network sharing in rural areas is to delivering Broadband in Africa,” says Lambotharan. “Policy-makers and regulators should reduce costs and prevent unnecessary duplication through incentivising infrastructure-sharing and should also provide subsidies for rural access and capacity expansion.”

While it may be waiting on spectrum and regulatory clarity, MTN has not slowed down on the investments it is making in its network. Lambotharan notes that the company spends billions of rands per year in its operations, the lion’s share being on network infrastructure and delivering end-to-end services to its customers.

Staff writer

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