New players better positioned to boost African connectivity - NetOne

By Tom Jackson, South Africa

Broadband connectivity will be more quickly rolled out across Africa if the sector is opened to new players who can roll out access quicker than incumbents, according to Jaime Ferreira, chief executive officer (CEO) NetOne Angola.

Ferreira told the AfricaCom conference in Cape Town that newer players such as NetOne - which launched in 2010 and now has 60,000 customers - were better placed to increase connectivity across Africa through increasing competition.

“One thing that is very important to leverage broadband in Africa is to open the game to new players,” Ferreira said. “The demand is so huge, and the incumbents cannot respond as fast as us. We are now pushing all the incumbents to invest and have the same offering that we have. New players bring more competition, and more competition brings more services, lowers prices and pushes up broadband in Africa.”

However, according to Jose Dos Santos, CEO of South Africa’s third operator Cell C, even with increasing competition operators must also learn to work together when appropriate in order to increase internet access, as they are the only players that are able and willing to do so.

“I don’t see too much foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa with the current regulatory framework, and I don’t see government being in a hurry either,” he said.

Dos Santos urged the creation of a newco with all players having a share which would then be able to roll out broadband in rural areas.

“In terms of affordability, we need prices to come down. There needs to be infrastructure sharing,” he said.

“The dominant players are still reluctant to share infrastructure, not only with ourselves but with industry players. We’ve gone past sharing towers. Regulatory frameworks must be restructured.”

Robert Aouad, CEO, Isocel Telecom in Benin, said all parties within the ecosystem had a responsibility to make online access cheaper for end users.

“In a few years we have seen massive investment in international connectivity. And when you see the proportion of this that is reaching the end user it is very low,” he said. “There is a challenge in distributing this bandwidth. There is an ecosystem, and governments have a big role to play with financial institutions and equipment manufacturers.”

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