Since 2009, when East Africa’s undersea cable Seacom was completed, several other major undersea cables have been built and gone live on the continent, with three additional undersea cables planned by the end of 2014. Along with a general decline in the cost of mobile telecommunications, the arrival of undersea cables has also been tied to increased bandwidth availability, higher speeds of access to the Internet, and the launch of mobile broadband service offerings.
The past year has seen several operators launch 3G and more recently 4G/LTE services in Africa — for example, in Angola, where Movicel debuted a 4G mobile network ahead of many operators in Europe. All of these operators have touted the benefits of mobile broadband to their customers and to the country’s development as a whole. While the arrival of the undersea cables has already made a discernible impact in many of the countries that have been able to connect to these lines, the fate of the evolution of mobile broadband in Africa undoubtedly rests with regulators in the markets where the cables are or could be deployed.
In this Insider, we will discuss why regulators should focus on constructing a future-proof legal and regulatory framework to help ensure the development of a healthy mobile broadband ecosystem. Then we will demonstrate how licensing regime changes within a regulatory framework can produce results favorable to operator-led mobile broadband growth. Next we will highlight how regulator flexibility towards the private sector can encourage activity that strengthens the diffusion of mobile broadband in a telecom market. While no one regulatory body has been free of missteps in this arena, a case study from Kenya will subsequently provide examples of regulator actions that are helping to move their mobile broadband agendas forward in important respects. The aim of this Insider is to highlight best practices that regulators in Africa should consider as they change regulations that will play a large role in determining the levels of access to mobile broadband on the continent through the end of the decade.
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