According to the latest research by Frost & Sullivan, there is a ‘colossal gap’ in Africa between fixed and mobile communication penetration. While mobile communication has seen huge uptake and is approaching saturation in several countries, fixed line solutions suffer from a lack of competition, as they are generally offered solely by state owned entities, which has led to limited infrastructure development and investment.
Frost & Sullivan did a review of the telecoms market across each region of Africa in 2013 and found that mobile communications have 96.4% of the subscriber market while fixed-line communications have the remaining 3.6%.
According to Frost & Sullivan ICT analyst Naila Govan Vassen mobile penetration has reached almost 100% saturation in some countries, pushing mobile network operators to explore new revenue streams such as mobile data.
“In particular, the North African region is on the verge of saturation, with an average mobile penetration rate of 93.4%. South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Mali and Gabon are also in a similar situation, with a 100%-plus mobile penetration rates.” said Govan Vassen.
This is generally due to high numbers of people owning more than one SIM card in many countries “High numbers for business-related visitors and tourists has also led to the purchase of SIM cards for short-term use, contributing to mobile saturation in some markets,” the company said. “In fact, touristic appeal is the reason the destination of Seychelles registered a mobile penetration rate of 195.5 per cent by the end of 2013.”
There are, however, some solutions emerging which could address this gap between mobile and fixed communications.
Vodacom for example has just recently launched an enterprise-grade fixed telephony solution in Nigeria.
The company launched two new solutions; they are Business Connect and Business Express. With Business Connect, Vodacom said enterprises with existing Private Branch Exchange (PBX) infrastructure can make and receive external calls, while Business Express is for enterprises without an existing PBX.
Meanwhile, in Ghana, MTN has launched the Eazifon, a fixed wireless phone, which can be used as an alternative to the traditional landline fixed phone for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).