Telecom giants fight challenges
Telecommunications operators in Africa would meet with investors and regulators in South Africa from September 1-3, 2009 to discuss a wide range of issues on the way forward for the industry on the continent.
Ghana would be represented by the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFTEC) among 80 other participants, mostly telecom operators, dubbed Telecom World Africa 2009 (TWA 09), organised by the South African-based Terrapinn Limited, a business media company.
The conference, under the theme: “Opportunity, Innovation and Strategy for Fixed and Mobile Operators and Investors”, would focus on investment opportunities for operators; investors in Africa; investing in Africa's telecoms; reforming regulation; convergence; optimising operator performance; mobile broadband and innovation.
Some time would also be dedicated to discuss West Africa, East Africa and North Africa's regional updates in the telecom industry.
“There will be case studies of various aspects of the industry, chief executive panel, investor panel sessions, as well a few companies with stands displaying their offerings,” Terrapinn said.
As at June 2009, Africa recorded 390 million mobile phone subscribers, representing 39.2 per cent penetration of the estimated 997 million people on the continent.
Pre-paid subscribers make up about 80 per cent of mobile cellular users on the continent and some prepaid subscribers own more than one simcard, making real penetration even lower than estimated.
Ghana hosts six multinational telecom operators - MTN, Tigo, Zain, Vodafone, Kasapa and Glo, five of which command an estimated 14.74 million mobile cellular subscribers, representing 67 per cent penetration in the first half of 2009. Penetration is expected to reach between 70 to 80 per cent next year. Glo is yet to begin operations.
The giant of Africa, Nigeria, hosting MTN, Glo, Zain, Vodafone and other leading brands in emerging markets, recorded some 67 million mobile cellular subscribers in June 2009.
African Telecom Market Report, 2008–2009, posted on www.marketreportchina.com, said with an overall mobile telecom penetration of less than 45 per cent, Africa still had great potential for development in the sector, even though economic growth rate of the continent was expected to drop from 5.7 per cent in 2008 to 3.2 per cent in 2009 as a result of the global economic downturn.
Investors are confident in Africa because it is one region where the telecom industry develops most rapidly, and the report said mobile communication in Africa was progressing exceedingly fast.
Statistics on internet penetration in Africa also indicated that between December 2008 and June 2009, internet users on the continent increased from 4,514,400 to 64,153,900, representing 6.4 per cent penetration and 3.9 per cent of the number of global internet users, which stood at 1,663,770,408.
Even though Ghana was the first to launch internet in West Africa in 1993, it is now the 28th out of 56 African countries in terms of internet penetration, with an estimated 800,000 internet users.
Investors and operators to be represented at the TWA 09 conference would be looking out for investment opportunities in new generation technology and convergence between telecom and internet, particularly voice over internet protocol (VOIP), and co-location.
In Ghana, government is encouraging co-location of masts, and the National Communication Authority (NCA) said it was working on getting third party investors to erect towers for the purposes of co-location.
Already, GIFTEC has mounted 40 telecom masts in un-served and under-served communities where operators have co-located their antennae to serve their respective customers.
Individual operators are also implementing co-location agreement on more than 150 cell sites.
In terms of investment, Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of Tigo, reported $500 million capital investment in Ghana; MTN Ghana invested $400 million in 2008 and is expected to invest in excess of that amount this year; Vodafone bought Ghana Telecom for $900 million and has so far invested $120 million; Zain also reported some $450 million capital investment; and Glo has also invested huge sums in the Glo-One sub-marine landing station.
Ghana is also one of the landing stations of the Main-One sub-marine cable as well as the West African Cable Systems (WACS).
Executive Director of Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) Ghana, Alhassan Umar, told the GNA that with the number of sub-marine landing sites, Ghana presented a huge investment opportunity in the area of convergence technologies in voice and data communication as well as business processes outsourcing (BPO).
Operators, investors and regulators on the continent will be represented at the TWA 09 conference.