African bandwidth needs to triple

By Damaria Senne, ITWeb senior journalist
Johannesburg, 07 May 2007

Bandwidth requirements for North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are set to triple by 2011, according to a new report by Balancing Act.

However, that may be a conservative estimate, as other stakeholders expect bandwidth demand to grow by as much as a hundredfold.

The second edition of 'Balancing Act Forecasts' says growth from all forms of broadband over the forecast period to 2011 will be 43 529Mbps, almost a tripling of current bandwidth.

Additional growth from dial-up subscriptions over the forecast period to 2011 will be 689Mbps, it says.

The report says the rapid take-up of broadband in general and wireless broadband in particular has driven increases in Internet bandwidth, and will be the prime driver of growth over the next five years.

While ADSL dominates demand in those countries already connected to broadband, the most rapid growth will probably come from wireless broadband, the report says. Wireless broadband may well be a much larger contributor than ADSL to bandwidth growth in sub-Saharan Africa, it says.

The report adds that total Internet bandwidth supplied by satellite dropped from 24.1% in 1998, to 11.5% in 2006. Twenty-six African countries get 100% of their international Internet bandwidth entirely by satellite, it says.

Too conservative?

Despite a reported decline in satellite broadband demand, Gateway Communications recently increased its satellite bandwidth capacity by 84% to meet demand in Africa.

COO Mike Van den Bergh says recent research suggests satellite transponder demand will experience annual growth of 6.7% per year, between 2007 and 2010 in Africa and the Middle East. However, supply is only forecast to grow at 3.2% annually over the same period.

MY ADSL founder Rudolph Muller says Balancing Act's estimated growth in bandwidth demand is very conservative, especially when compared with Nokia Siemens' current estimate for broadband demand in Africa.

Nokia Siemens Networks' sub-regional head, Jan Mrosik, recently said the company expects voice and data traffic in Africa to increase by a hundredfold by 2015. This will be fuelled by Internet usage till 2010, and will also be driven by the sharing of videos and clips, as well as TV access across channels.

SA is also expected to experience an explosion in bandwidth demand due to the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament requirements, as well as the Square Kilometre Array.

The Balancing Act report also found that international voice traffic in Africa would grow at above the world average, with Africa enjoying 23.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), while the rest of the world saw average growth rates of 13.8% CAGR.

Satellite carried 45.3% of Africa's international voice traffic in 2006, with the use of satellite expected to drop to 41% by 2011 if no further international fibre cables are built, the report says.

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Gateway ups bandwidth capacity