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Fresh LTE Perspectives from Altair

africa

Around the World in Nine Blog Posts – Post 2 – Africa

May 7, 2012

As I head off to the airport on my way to LTE India later today, why not take a moment to see where things are in Africa, in terms of the relative progress of the LTE market there?

(I know.  It would make sense to post something about India right now, given that I’m on my way there, but hey, half the fun of blogging is keeping everyone guessing!)

As opposed to Latin America, which has really had its ups and downs (and ups!) with LTE, Africa is a simpler story to tell.

First, there is certainly potential there.  Today, there are approximately 140 million Internet users in Africa (and 40 million Facebook users!). That adds up to about a 13.5% market penetration for Internet, meaning two things:

  1. The fastest track to additional Internet penetration is via LTE, since the infrastructure necessary is so much simpler to deploy than country-wide fixed-line networks across the continent.
  2. With only a 13.5% market penetration, the potential for market growth is tremendous. As a comparison, Internet penetration around the rest of the world is just over 36%.

Nigeria is the most advanced of all the countries, but even it only has Internet 29% penetration. And we are seeing first-hand that Nigeria is getting serious about LTE, and we are certainly encouraged by our  activity there. And Morocco has the highest level of Internet penetration at 49%. Egypt falls right between those two, in terms of raw Internet usage numbers.

So the market is there.  It just needs to be built.

Which brings us to where things stand on the technology side. It all boils down to the regulators, who are preparing to auction off spectrum to the highest bidders. But taking a closer look, there is an interesting dynamic at play.

Originally, when the expectation was that WiMAX would rule (Check out this outdated piece from 2009.), the governments in Africa set aside spectrum for it.  So the spectrum is there.

What has to happen now is for the regulators to make the spectrum technology neutral – enabling LTE to be operated on the formerly-WiMAX-designated spectrum.  The band definitions from 3GPP are already in place, which makes life a whole lot easier when it comes to standardizing LTE chipset and RF front end components.

So watch this space, because the African market has definite potential.

- Eran Eshed

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