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Broadband in Africa to cross a billion by 2020
November 26, 2017, 2:46 pm

The number of mobile broadband internet connections could more than double, from 419 million connections today, to 1.07 billion by end of 2020, says a new report by London-based research and consulting firm Ovum. 

Citing the flood of affordable smartphones and the roll-out of high-speed networks for the rapid growth in mobile broadband connections on the continent, the report added that this would present good prospects in areas such as digital media, mobile financial services, and the Internet of Things.

However, the report also noted that this spurt in growth and subsequent digital content demand would increase pressure on internet service providers (ISP) to invest in latest high-speed networks.

The figures from Ovum reiterate earlier data from the global mobile trade body, GSM Association (GSMA), which had said that by 2020 there could be as many as a billion SIM connections across Africa.

Mobile broadband connections accounted for a quarter of total connections in 2015; this figure is expected to rise to two-thirds by 2020. While 3G will continue to dominate mobile technology for the next five years, LTE or 4G is gradually gaining traction in many parts of Africa.

In 2015, mobile technologies and services generated 6.7 percent of GDP in Africa, accounting for around US$150 billion of economic value. By 2020 this value is projected to increase by 40 percent to reach $210 billion and contribute to 7.6 percent of the continent’s GDP as countries benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency through increased take-up of mobile services.

Africa’s mobile ecosystem, which supported 3.8 million jobs in 2015, is expected to increase to 4.5 million jobs by 2020, including workers directly employed in the sector, as well as jobs indirectly supported by economic activity generated by the mobile ecosystem.

But with more than half of the population of 1.2 billion still unsubscribed to any mobile service, the challenge for Africa is to overcome the barriers to connecting the unconnected and unlock the economic potential of increased connectivity.

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