Wednesday, 1 February 2012

African Telecoms Investment - January 2012

$1,418Mn of investment in African telecoms infrastructure was announced in January, down very marginally on the same month last year, but up 15% on 2010.

As ever, cellular network upgrades dominated proceedings, with large capex commitments being made in Nigeria, Tanzania and Liberia. Staying with mobile for a moment, the launch of 3G networks continue to make headlines, with HSPA being switched on by operators in Zambia and Kenya. There also seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for Vodacom in DRC, where resolution to their dispute with their local partner appears close, potentially unlocking nearly $500Mn of much needed investment into Africa's 3rd most populous country.

Also worth mentioning is the continued success of alternative wireless broadband access network solutions, such as wifi (Burkino Faso), WiMAX (Namibia), satellite broadband (South Africa) and TD-LTE (Nigeria). These are generally quite small investments, but are meaningful in that they extend data provision to (richer) rural communities in a cost effective manner.

In cities, fibre deployment continues in Kenya and South Africa, despite low take up of FTTH (due to high pricing - 10MBit/s costs $100 a month in Kenya). Backers such as Jamii and Dimension Data will be hoping that in the long term they will become the telecoms incumbents that countries outside of the extreme north and south of the continent lack.

Now that connections to the continent are in place and bandwidth is begining to grow onshore, access is becoming an exciting area of investment. Since the access solution for Africa is not predetermined (beyond the fact that it isn't a copper cable), I expect to see a wide variety of technologies being deployed over the next few years, with no standard emerging in the near term.

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