Why Telecommunication Firms are Rushing to Build Fibre Optic Networks in East and Southern Africa

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Telecommunication firms are making a rush to build fibre optic networks in East and Southern Africa. In fact, competition in Africa’s fibre broadband market is likely to grow in 2018 as major telecom players move to capture customers and entrench their position in the market.

This is according to Steve Briggs, Chief Commercial Officer at SEACOM, a privately-owned preferred supplier and partner for African enterprises, network carriers and service providers.

“In the markets where we operate – East Africa and southern Africa – there’s a land grab underway,” said Briggs.

“We’re seeing a rush to build fibre in metropolitan areas where last-mile and metro infrastructure does not yet exist. Additionally, the pace of mergers and acquisitions looks likely to pick up as the major networks aim to consolidate their position in the market and build economies of scale by acquiring smaller regional or niche competitors,” he added in an announcement issued on March 13th, 2018.

Briggs stated that the flurry of activity in the fibre market is creating a virtuous circle where end-users benefit from better broadband connectivity, while the resulting uptick in demand gives telecom networks the incentive and business case to invest more heavily in fibre infrastructure.

“Before the arrival of fibre, many businesses depended on expensive mobile data or satellite solutions for connectivity,” Briggs explained.

“Fixed-line broadband was inaccessible in most parts of the continent because there was no infrastructure and the costs were too high. That picture is beginning to change,” he continued.

He cited to Kenya as a particular success story. Figures from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), a regulator for the country’s telecoms industry, show that there were nearly 55,000 fixed fibre optic subscriptions in June 2017, double the 27,500 such connections recorded in June 2016. There is robust demand for fibre to the home and the workplace alike.

“The explosion in fibre-optic connectivity in Kenya is having a transformative effect on the country, offering broadband that is faster and cheaper than mobile connectivity,” noted Briggs.

“It’s helping to drive growth and innovation among the country’s already thriving tech entrepreneur ecosystem, it’s supporting the academic community and turning the country into a regional R&D hub. Consumers are enjoying seamless access streaming video and other rich service,” he continued.

“And Kenya enterprises and government are starting to accelerate their move to the cloud because they have access to the low-latency, high-performance connectivity they need to get a smooth and reliable experience with software-as-a-service. This is helping to drive modernisation of the technology Kenyan companies use and enhance their competitiveness by accessing the latest global cloud technologies,” he noted.

Briggs stated that promoting competition and giving investors policy certainty have helped to attract investment into Kenya’s telecom sector over the past decade.

“A stable regulatory environment that promotes fair competition is the key to driving fibre penetration in Africa. Giving the telecoms industry the confidence to invest is the biggest contribution a government can make towards growing broadband penetration in its country,” he said.

“We’re seeing enormous pent-up demand for high-speed connectivity and quality bandwidth at an affordable cost across Kenya,” says Tonny Tugee, SEACOM Head of Regional Sales in East Africa.

“A more liberalised telecoms sector and industry investment in infrastructure are converging to address this need with fast, reliable connectivity. Kenya is beginning to unleash the full power of video, modern collaborative apps and other bandwidth-hungry business solutions,” Tugee added.




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