Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region with the highest growth rate in mobile subscriptions globally. And with current penetration levels hovering around the 85% mark, (they were close to 50% in 2010), things are well on track for the region to achieve 100% penetration by 2021 and 105% a year later.
Those were some of the headline finding of Ericsson’s November 2016 Mobility report unveiled at AfricaCom this morning.
The real gold lies deeper in the report however, with Ericsson predicting that sub-Saharan Africa will become more data centric over the coming years as smartphone penetration increases.
From 2016 to 2022, Ericsson says Sub-Saharan Africa will dramatically shift from a region where GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions dominate, to one where 83% of all subscribers make use of WCDMA/HSPA and LTE.
The report states that WCDMA/HSPA subscriptions will grow by 15% annually between 2016 and 2022. It also says that even though LTE subscriptions will also show strong year-on-year growth, WCDMA/HSPA will remain the dominant mobile broadband access technology in sub-Saharan Africa through to 2022.
During the same timeframe, smartphones penetration is predicted to increase by 21% annually to reach the 80 percent mark by 2022.
While the bigger installed base of smartphones will obviously drive up data traffic levels, a rise in access and viewing of video content, along with wider network coverage, continued reduction in prices of both devices and services and a growing population are cited as the key drivers.
All in all, data traffic is forecast to grow by around 55 percent annually between 2016 and 2022 – representing a 13x increase in just six years.
Ericsson says this rapid growth is driving operators to explore methods of optimising network capacity, such as complementing traffic via Wi-Fi networks. Here, the company predicts that WiFi traffic is expected to rise by 70% annually between 2016 and 2022.
Another key driver when it comes to the telecoms trends in sub-Saharan Africa is the age of the population. The report notes that currently, 57 percent of the population in the region is below the age of 15. The expectation is that the behavior of this segment will be a key driver in the increasing adoption of mobile services.
For example, in Nigeria, university students are the demographic most likely to spend time online, as well as access the internet via hand-held devices. Additionally, Nigeria has over 7 million active daily users on Facebook and 97% access the service on mobile devices.
Similarly, the report says the average South African subscriber spends three hours on social media every day.
While the youth are a key factor in the growth of mobile broadband, the internet of things is also set to widen the reach of mobile broadband.
As governments and the private sector begin to solve local challenges with the internet of things, Ericsson predicts that these connections will increase annually at a rate of 38% from now until 2022.
While consumer minded IoT solutions are gaining traction across the world, the focus is expected to be on solving urban and rural issues.
With at least 55 percent of the urban population in the region living in informal settlements, smart villages provide a solution to manage the rate of urbanisation and improve the standard of living.
In South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana, smart city solutions, from using IoT to curtail water scarcity in large informal settlements to intelligent transport solutions, are increasingly being investigated to find answers to the challenges of urbanisation.
In addition, by promoting IoT solutions, governments can encourage deeper cooperation through data sharing by leveraging of cities’ infrastructure in neighbouring countries which may have closer access to ports and railway networks.
While this concept is in its infancy, the report says this can be seen in the Smart Africa initiative, a partnership between 11 African countries which promotes intelligent solutions to achieve greater economic growth and job creation.