With telcos in South Africa and across the continent trying to meet demand for streaming media, mobile coverage and cloud services, the industry in Africa is on brink of a fibre connectivity boom.

This is according to SEACOM Chief Development Officer, Suveer Ramdhani, who says the telecoms industry needs to prioritise broadband services deployment to meet the rising demand.

“In Africa, we have seen some progress in increasing Internet penetration, but the goalposts keep shifting,” said Rhamdhani. “Many, perhaps even most, Internet connections on the continent are sub-1Mbs connections that do not meet the insatiable demand among businesses and consumers for fast and plentiful bandwidth.”

Ramdhani points to two factors that are increasing the demand for faster connectivity on a wider scale. First is the fact that most South Africans access the web primarily through a smartphone.

“Research from We Are Social indicates that 75% of web pages served to web browsers in South Africa are accessed from mobile devices,” says Ramdhani. “Across Africa, people spend most of their time online using mobile devices because of the world’s shift towards mobility and because it is the only affordable or available means of connecting to the Internet in many regions.”

Internet access is only half the story however, as mobile devices are now used for a vast array of tasks such as messaging, social networking, streaming media and file-sharing.  Cisco has provided data showing that nearly 58% of data consumption in South Africa in 2015 was used for video. This is expected to rise 71% by 2020, with services such as Netflix and ShowMax fuelling massive growth. 

“With the trends towards higher video consumption and cloud computing, users will need to find their way back to a fixed-line connection,” says Ramdhani. “Mobile operators will need to look at their business models and decide whether they will evolve these models to capture all of our data spend or whether they will continue to provide relatively expensive services for niche mobile use.”