September 22, 2023

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African internet speeds leap in global rankings

Investment in fibre optic cable and the steady rollout of 5G technology is positively impacting Africa’s internet speeds, resulting in big gains for the continent’s global internet rankings.

By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency

A number of African countries have surged in global rankings that gauge internet speeds at telcos and internet service providers, as investments into network infrastructure and deployment intensify.

By the end of 2022, seven African countries had moved up by more than five positions in the global ranking of median mobile internet download speeds.

Seven others upped their fixed broadband speed rankings by a similar number of spots, according to Speedtest Global Index by Ookla, a global network intelligence and connectivity research firm.

“Internet connectivity continues to speed ahead for people around the world, especially as countries prioritize and improve mobile and fixed broadband networks,” said researchers of Ookla Speedtest Global Index 2022.

Over the first 11 months of 2022, fixed broadband speeds grew faster (28%) than mobile download speeds (17%) compared to the Index’s November 2021 figures.

During the period under review, lowly-ranked African countries made the most significant strides.

Rwanda made the biggest leap in fixed broadband speeds, with the result that its position in the global rankings rose by 47 places.

LIberalisation of the sector in that country saw the East African nation grant 114 fixed broadband licenses to internet service providers – including continental heavyweight Liquid Telecom and mobile network operators, MTN and Airtel – between 2021 and 2022.

“Accordingly, this enabled the expansion of the fiber optic network to the households and corporate services in the City of Kigali, Musanze and Rubavu,” said  Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) in its annual report.

Rwanda’s internet penetration stood at 60.6% by the close of 2022, with its international bandwidth capacity rising by 29.4%.

Malawi moved nine positions to 148 while Djibouti and Congo jumped seven slots to 153 and 103 respectively, while Mauritius, Lesotho and Guinea improved their rankings by five places each to settle at 113, 127 and 154.

Burkina Faso, previously among the lowest ranking countries, moved up the most places in Africa’s mobile internet speeds, shifting 22 places to rank 102.

Early in 2022, Burkina Faso also completed the first phase of a national fibre backbone project to connect its capital city to 145 more municipalities and neighbouring countries.

Burkina Faso will also benefit from a partnership between Orange Telecom and off-grid network operator, Vanu, to deliver technology upgrades across 1,070 sites in three countries. 170 of those will be in Burkina Faso, 700 in Côte d’Ivoire and 200 in Liberia.

“In order to provide digital services for all, Orange will deploy its services by strategically improving/increasing its network coverage so that no one will be left behind,” said Orange Group Deputy Director General in charge of operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Liberia, Nafy Coulibaly.

Botswana and Uganda, already seated higher in the global rankings, moved 15 places each – to 47 and 57 respectively.

Mauritius also made significant strides in mobile internet speed with a ranking rise of 13 slots – to position 74 – as Sudan moved up 11 slots to settle at 112.

Among Africa’s largest economies, Kenya rose by five slots to 87 and Nigeria by one position to 92 in their mobile internet speeds rankings. However, Egypt and South Africa both saw their mobile rankings fall – by six and nine slots respectively, to positions 91 and 64.

Mobile network operators in both countries invested in network upgrades despite tough economic conditions that saw significant rises in the cost of living in Africa. Those investments are expected to pay off in future.

“We accelerated network investment to R17.1 billion (US$950 million) and spent an additional R7 billion (US$412 million) on securing 4G and 5G spectrum in the key markets of South Africa and Nigeria,” said MTN President and CEO Ralph Mupita in a statement on its financial performance.

The investment, MTN said, increased access to broadband services to 85.5% of the population and led to an average 22.5% reduction in data tariffs.

Kenya-headquartered Safaricom, also in its annual 2022 report, said capital additions on its network together with systems upgrades stood at US$397 million (KShs 49.78 billion) for the year.

“It is anticipated that the majority of Kenya’s mobile connections will be on 5G by 2029 and our network masts are prepared for this growth. In the short term, we plan to expand the number of 5G sites to more than 200 locations across nine towns over the next year,” Safaricom told investors.

Despite falls in their mobile rankings, both Egypt and South Africa saw improvements in their fixed broadband internet speeds, improving by four and a single position to 84 and 97 respectively.

bird, story agency

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