| July 5, 2014, 6:05 a.m.
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
Technology giant Ericsson has urged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to make infrastructure sharing mandatory in the telecoms sector to deepen telecoms penetration and improve service quality.
The firm’s Managing Director, Nigeria, Kamar Abass, noted that there is already passive infrastructure sharing, arguing that active infrastructure sharing will be good for the industry.
Speaking during the unveiling of Ericsson Mobility Report in Lagos, he said though the sector is expected to keep growing through the years ahead, “poor network coverage remained a cause for concern.”
According to him, with more than 130 million subscribers, it would be wrong to feel constrained by infrastructure challenges, adding that the country has reached an advanced stage of base transmission station (BTS) management. Abas who said Ericsson manages about 11,000 out of the over 20,000 BTS in the country, said power availability is about 90 per cent at the BTS.
He is of the optimistic that the networks could only keep getting smarter with improved technology from the firm.
“As telecommunication technologies become a central part of the way businesses and society function, key stakeholders in the region such as government and network providers need to put resources in place that assist in dealing with consumer demand,” Abass said, adding that “More spectrums will need to be allocated to support networks as their capacity is not growing as fast as the increase in data traffic.”
In the report, the firm said by the end of this year, there will be over 635 million subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa which is predicted to rise to around 930 million by the end of 2019, stressing that there was an ongoing data revolution, with traffic growth doubling past years.
It said by 2019, there would be 557 million smartphones in use and 710 million broadband subscriptions.
The Mobility Report shows that this year, phone users accessed 76,000 Terabyte (Tb) of data per month – double that of last year’s figure of 37,500 TB per month.
In 2015, the figures are expected to double again with mobile phone users accessing 147,000 TB per month.
Ericsson disclosed that the rise of social media, content-rich apps and video content accessed from a new range of cheaper smartphones had prompted the rise.
Regional Head of Ericsson, sub-Saharan Africa, Fredrik Jejdling, said consumers in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria were also increasingly using video-television and media services from their smartphones.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is currently undergoing a mobile digital revolution with consumers, networks and even media companies wakening up the possibilities of 3G and 4G technology.
“We have seen the trend emerging over a few years but in the past 12 months, the digital traffic has increased over 100 per cent forcing us to revise our existing predictions,” Jejdling said.
The report’s findings show that in the next five years, the voice call traffic in sub-Saharan Africa will double and there will be an explosion in mobile data which will grow 20 times between 2013 and 2019, twice the anticipated global expansion.
By 2019, the report predicts,75 per cent of mobile subscriptions will be Internet-inclusive (3G or 4G).
A number of major device manufacturers have predicted this growth following the launch in 2014 of a number of smartphones for under $50, therefore, allowing the rapid expansion of 3G and 4G technologies across the region.
The 2014 report predicts that in just three years’ time, 3G technology will become the dominant technology across the region.
Jejdling said, “The rise of cheap smartphones will allow vast portions of the population – from middle classes in cities to small businesses in rural areas – access to mobile broadband. M-commerce can offer endless opportunities for entrepreneurs and we’ve found that farmers are fans of mobile wallets – as well as teenagers wanting to watch music videos on their smartphone.”
It was learnt that Ericsson regularly performs traffic measurements in over 100 live networks across the world and predictions have been made in collaboration with Ericsson ConsumerLab, utilising population, macroeconomic trends combined with the company’s own anonymised data.