Smartphone price cuts to drive internet in Africa


Image: Aidan Baigrie. By BiztechAfrica
Aidan Baigrie

The rapid drop in smartphone pricing will play a major role in bringing internet connectivity to Africans over the next five to 10 years, uplifting economies throughout the continent in the process. This is according to Aidan Baigrie, Head of Business Development at SEACOM.

He says that with some smartphones already dropping below the USD100 threshold and sub USD50 devices inbound, smartphones are rapidly falling to price levels that make them accessible to a larger market in Africa.

"There is mobile phone penetration of around 70% across Africa, but smartphone penetration is only 10% to 15%," says Baigrie. "The question is how do we lift smartphone penetration closer to the 70% level, so that as many Africans can enjoy mobile broadband services as the current numbers that have access to basic GSM services.”

Baigrie says the key lies in the falling prices of smartphones and other smart devices. Huawei's USD80 IDEOS Android smartphone has been a hit in the Kenyan market and similar examples can be found in other parts of the continent, showing that the market for data services is there once consumers can afford smart devices. He also predicts that there will be an increase in smart devices such as smart readers, tablets and hybrids being launched into the market in 2013.

China's firm Spreadtrum Communications recently released two new low-cost, 600MHz Android smartphone platforms aimed at ultra-cheap smartphones in the USD40 range. "These devices are having a massive effect on the African market, bringing Internet services in reach for more people than ever before," says Baigrie.

In more mature markets such as South Africa, operators are already reporting that they are shipping more smartphones than cellphones or feature phones, a trend that will soon become apparent in the rest of the continent. In the process, many Africans are gaining access to services such as social networking, the Web, and email for the first time, says Baigrie. Africa will leapfrog the PC era to the mobile, post-PC world, he adds.

"Like users in the rest of the world, Africans want Internet access via smartphones for entertainment, shopping, social networking and commercial applications," he adds. "This is leading to an explosion in demand for mobile data on African telecommunications networks. And the fact that mobile data prices have fallen dramatically in the past few years has also helped to spur demand."

Baigrie notes that this sort of mobile connectivity will be important in helping African countries to grow their economies by promoting access to information, communication, education and commerce. It will also challenge the telecommunications industry to rapidly grow its infrastructure and capacity to keep up with demand, he says.

SEACOM says it is constantly growing its longhaul fibre capability, but African operators will also need to keep investing in national backbones and last-mile connectivity to cater for the extra strain put on their networks by the millions of smart devices that will enter the market in the next few years. The internet is on Africa’s doorstep, the key to unlocking this opportunity is getting it from the doorstep and into our home.

Share the News

Get Daily Newsletter

comments powered by Disqus


Alcatel-Lucent to deliver submarine broadband connectivity to oil and gas facilities off Angola

Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks, the undersea cables subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent, has been awarded the development of the Sonangol Offshore Optical Cable (SOOC). Read More

MTN excels in NCA data quality tests

MTN has distinguished itself as the most reliable data service provider in Ghana, according to the results of Quality of Service data monitoring tests released by the National Communications Authority.  Read More

More institutions benefit from Airtel’s free internet connectivity

Airtel connected a further five learning institutions and one Police Station to the internet for free this week, bringing the number of institutions Airtel has connected for free to over 150.  Read More

Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicações Moçambique selects Intelsat to extend broadband services

Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicações de Moçambique has renewed its relationship with Intelsat S.A. for satellite solutions that will help the company deliver broadband connectivity to corporate networks and provide cellular backhaul services to support remote areas of Mozambique. Read More

MTN invests R1.2 billion to fund network upgrades in Kwa-Zulu Natal

MTN South Africa is investing about R1.2 billion to upgrade its network in Kwa-Zulu Natal, which includes the deployment of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in the scenic suburb La Lucia. Read More

Teraco interconnects Africa to the world’s financial markets

Teraco has announced a new fibre link that provides capital market participants with the reliable, high-bandwidth and high-speed connectivity required to transport critical financial data. Read More

Facebook’s mobile momentum grows in Africa

Facebook has shared new statistics revealing that 2.2 million Kenyans use Facebook every day and 4.5 million each month, while 7.1 million Nigerians use Facebook daily and 15 million are active every month.  Almost all these people are coming to Facebook on a mobile device. Read More launches free audio conferencing in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa

The world’s largest free conference calling service is looking to grow its user base in Africa while creating new partnerships with the African carrier community. Read More

Smile closes USD365m financing to accelerate 4G LTE network expansion in Africa

Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd, which owns and operates mobile wireless 4G LTE broadband networks in the 800MHz band in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, announced that it raised USD365 million of debt and equity financing. Read More

A4AI names Omobola Johnson as new chair

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has appointed the immediate past Minister of Communication Technology of Nigeria, Dr. Omobola Johnson, as its Honorary Chairperson.   Read More


Sage ERP AfricaSAP AfricaSage Pastel AccountingTrust PayVMWareSamsung ElectronicsMitsumi DistributionPhoenix DistributionMTN BusinessSchneider ElectricMultichoiceMicrosoft 4Afrika


Innovative designer takes e-waste to another levelInnovative designer takes e-waste to another level

Gladys Muyenzelwa is a Gaborone based artist and designer who has an eye for ethnic and contemporary design. But unlike other designers, Muyenzelwa has found a way of using e-waste to make her creations. 


High tech homes: Just press playHigh tech homes: Just press play

High tech, digital homes where everything is automated and connected aren’t the stuff of science fiction any longer, says BNC Technology.


Luba Freeport streamlines its sea of paper with Sage X3

Luba Freeport has implemented the Finance and Distribution modules of the Sage X3 business management solution to automate its business processes across finance and operations.