Mobile communications markets in Southern Africa are experiencing high growth,
particularly in Zambia. However, operators face challenges such as rising
operational costs, declining interconnection charges and capital-intensive
infrastructure investments, according to Frost & Sullivan.
The deployment of cost-effective mobile technologies such
as HSxPA, EDGE, HSPA+ and WiMAX in the near future will help operators to
overcome such challenges and achieve economies of scale. South Africa is the
leading market in the region in terms of subscribers and revenues, and the market
growth is expected to be driven by data services as well as enterprise
Mobile broadband is an effective means to improve the connectivity of Internet
services in the rural area due to the lack of fixed-line (copper and fibre)
infrastructure. The maturing standards of WiMAX technology may help operators
achieve a cost-efficient deployment of next generation mobile technologies
since it allows an increasing coverage for the limited amount spectrum
available for each operator and supports high-speed mobile data services.
The market continues to confront a range of challenges. These include slow
regulatory reform and low network coverage in the rural mass market. At the
same time, low literacy levels are restraining the demand for data services.
Regulations in the Southern African region have not yet
kept pace with technological advancements such as the WiMAX spectrum
allocation. For instance, a new regulatory framework covering unified/converged
licensing has not yet been set up in many countries in the region. Literacy
levels in the Southern African region are low. This constrains the uptake of
data services as most data services are not yet offered in a user-friendly mode
on mobile devices.
Another potential threat to market momentum is that the
mobile network coverage remains very limited in the rural area, where over 60
percent of the mass market resides.
Promisingly, efforts are being made to address these
challenges. Before WiMAX regulations are finalised, operators have developed
the strategy to deploy similar technologies such as HSxPA and HSPA+, which will
be compatible with the other 4G technologies such as WiMAX and LTE for
migration in the future when the converged licensing framework is in place.
Fixed-wireless and fibre-optic technologies are
alternatives to improve the access to telecommunications in the rural area.
Leading operators in the region have engaged in offering community phones which
are seen as a substitute for mobile handsets at present.
Strategies to improve literacy levels include training
offered by operators to educate mobile subscribers on how to use handset to
access data services such as mobile money transfer services.