A pastoralist in Nigeria speaks on his mobile phone. © Arne Hoel / World Bank
Forecasts suggest that mobile broadband traffic across Africa will see a 20-fold increase by 2020, with about three-quarters of all mobile connections over 3G/4G networks.
This growth in traffic is being spurned on by the rise in data-rich applications along with an increasing supply of locally-made affordable devices. Regional regulators and governments have encouraged operators to make improvements in their networks, to increase traffic volumes as well as to meet customer expectations of a reliable service.
Broadband based on DSL technology remains limited in most African markets, since fixed infrastructure is generally underdeveloped. So the future of connectivity for many countries—particularly in rural and semi-urban areas—lies in mobile broadband.
To advance the technology, IFC has made a $12 million equity investment in Afrimax, a pan-African 4G/LTE wireless broadband operator.
Numerous studies show that broadband industry has been an enabler of economic development far beyond its immediate domain. Broadband has driven the emergence of innovative value-added services to support agriculture, banking, education, and health care. In addition, mobile money and mobile banking have created an enabling environment for the growth of small and medium enterprises and are putting Africa at the forefront of the global mobile finance industry.
Afrimax is deploying a TD-LTE broadband—a variation of 4G technology which has been proven to offer superior performance, reliability, service quality and, most importantly, the ability to be optimized for data-intensive broadband. The company’s customers enjoy high speed internet access even with a large number of simultaneous users and can access content from the Internet without virtually no buffering—whether when accessing data or high-definition video.
To date, Afrimax has built up the largest portfolio of 4G TD-LTE spectrum in a number of countries across sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, the company entered into a Partner Markets Agreement with one of the largest global telecoms players, Vodafone Group. The company is now starting commercial operations in its licensed markets, bringing the Vodafone brand to new parts of Africa and providing high quality broadband connectivity to over 220 million people.