Africa Telecoms Online

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One of the most incredibly useful tools for tracking broadband quality and value around the world is the Net Index service run by Ookla Net Metrics. It very accurately compiles the results of internet speed tests into charts and lists that can be manipulated to reveal very telling stats – especially if we’re tracking the progress of telecommunications in Africa. Updated in real time, the service reveals that the top three countries for broadband download speeds at time of writing are Lithuania in top spot with an average speed of 33.29Mbps. South Korea is second with 29.50, followed by Sweden with 25.94. The first time we find an African country on the list is at number 56 – Ghana with an average of 5.56Mbps. Much further down is Rwanda at number 73. Kenya is 82 and South Africa is number 100. But it isn’t all bad news. The average download speed in South Africa is just a scratch under 3Mbps. This is worlds apart from where it was at the beginning of 2010. Upload speeds have also dramatically increased and I have watched South Africa jump up 10 places on that list in the past year. I am particularly focused on upload speeds because this is The broadband crux leapfrogging that some predicted at the turn of the century, we are seeing Africa systematically catching up in pockets – and we still have a long way to go. However, the real issue, for me, has more to do with value and less with performance. The average global cost per 1Mbps of a home broadband connection is currently US$9.96. The EU, as a region, is well below this average at US$5.12 while the APEC region is at US$13.48. The best value in the world, according to Ookla, can be found in Denmark for US$3.62 per megabit per second. South Africa is number 58 at a relatively staggering $39.02, followed by Egypt in 59th position. No other African country makes it into the top 64 countries tracked for value by Ookla. This is really the crux of the problem in Africa. Not speed, but price – and general availability. If we really want to experience the economic benefits that we know internet connectivity can bring to the continent, then we must urgently develop better ways of getting connectivity into the hands of the masses. Affordably, effectively – and speed is just an added bonus. AT where connectivity will enable the next major shift in cloud computing, with private clouds becoming a reality for individuals. It will also give Africa what it needs to express itself online for the first time, with regional content creation and software development progressing – not to mention citizen journalism. And the interesting thing about connectivity in Africa is that while we are still very far down on global lists, our connectivity tends more towards synchronistic upload and download speeds – probably thanks to the latest switching technologies and fibre being deployed. For example, Ghana might be at number 56 for downloads, but it is at 31 for uploads, with an average speed of 4.13Mbps. South Africa does less favourably at number 97 in the world but has come a long way from 108 last year. So while we aren’t quite seeing the leapfrogging that some predicted at the turn of the century, we are seeing Africa systematically catching up in pockets – and we still have a long way to go. However, the real issue, for me, has more to do with value and less with performance. The average global cost per 1Mbps of a home broadband connection is currently US$9.96. The EU, as a region, is well below this average at US$5.12 while the APEC region is at US$13.48. The best value in the world, according to Ookla, can be found in Denmark for US$3.62 per megabit per second. South Africa is number 58 at a relatively staggering $39.02, followed by Egypt in 59th position. No other African country makes it into the top 64 countries tracked for value by Ookla. This is really the crux of the problem in Africa. Not speed, but price – and general availability. If we really want to experience the economic benefits that we know internet connectivity can bring to the continent, then we must urgently develop better ways of getting connectivity into the hands of the masses. Affordably, effectively – and speed is just an added bonus.

Published in October 2011

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