Representatives of African telecommunications operators yesterday committed themselves to fully exploring ways of enhancing connectivity in the continent.
"Connecting an unconnected Africa is not a pipe dream if African telecommunication operators adopt a migration plan that maximizes their existing investments, whilst embracing the Next Generation Network concept to exploit new business opportunities," says Telkom SA Ltd.'s Chief Technical Officer, Reuben September, who hosted the meeting.
He says that African countries need to develop and build networks that provide appropriate urban and rural access to all the various Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). Networks should be multi-service enabled, have widespread Internet availability, and feature multi-network interoperability with bandwidth-rich international connectivity.
"Broadband capability must be available at the access point of demand, and it is important that pricing is balanced against profitability and affordability. We believe that African operators can achieve this through African-based partnering," says September.
"Telkom is well positioned to facilitate this dialogue, and partner with other African operators, as the company has faced similar challenges over the past decade to establish a connected SA (South Africa) through the development of a state-of-the-art network," he says.
September warned against the over-simplification that mobile communications was the complete solution to Africa's communications problems. Narrowband GSM was being rolled out in most African countries, and it appears that this trend will continue going forward.
"Whilst this progress is welcomed and supported, narrowband voice and data services cannot fully meet the requirements for economic growth. The economic and social challenges of Africa also require broadband applications, such as eGovernment, eLearning, and telemedicine. Business is also very dependent on broadband applications for growth," he says.
"Countries need a solid backbone to support broadband applications, interconnectivity for the mobile operators and support for the rollout of ICTs. Fixed-line network operators should step up to the task of providing high-speed backbone infrastructure to take advantage of economies of scale and existing infrastructure. Whilst there are huge challenges associated with this, a partnership approach will bring a new dimension to unlocking the resources. It is a question of balance between the two networks," concludes September.