Report: Africa’s Mobile Broadband Subscriptions Will Double by 2025


By Emma Okonji

The latest November 2020 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report has projected increased growth in mobile broadband subscription in Africa, with a projection that sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile broadband subscriptions will account for 76 per cent of all mobile subscriptions in Africa by 2025.

The Ericsson Mobility Report was in line with the recent projection from the Nigerian Communications Commission, where its Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta had said that Nigeria would meet and surpass the 70 per cent target for broadband penetration in 2025, given the penetration level of 45.93 per cent as at October 2020.

The report estimated that mobile data traffic in sub-Saharan Africa would grow by almost 6.5 times the current figures, with total traffic increasing from 0.87 Exabyte (EB) per month in 2020 to 5.6EB by 2026. Meanwhile, average traffic per smartphone is expected to reach 8.9 Gigabyte (GB) over the forecast period.

According to the report, “As the demand for capacity and coverage of cellular networks continues to grow, service providers are expected to continue investing in their networks to cater for this uptake and meet evolving consumer requirements. In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile subscriptions will continue to grow over the forecast period as mobile penetration today, at 84 per cent, is less than the global average.

Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology is estimated to account for around 15 per cent of subscriptions by the end of 2020.”

The Ericsson Mobility Report, which was released this week, reiterated the importance of releasing more spectrum in Africa to expand coverage, improve network quality and encourage mobile adoption.

While analysing the report, President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, Fadi Pharaon, said: “This latest edition of our Mobility Report highlights the fundamental need for good connectivity as a cornerstone to cater for this uptake as the demand for capacity and coverage of cellular networks continues to grow across Africa. Investing in network infrastructure and optimising spectrum assignments to deliver expansive 4G connectivity, paving the way for 5G, are critical requirements to consider in this journey and to accelerate digital transformation across the continent. We will continue to invest in our technology leadership and offer our state-of-the art infrastructure solutions to help our customers seize the opportunities that connectivity will bring to Africa.”

Driving factors behind the growth of mobile broadband subscriptions, according to the report, include a young, growing population with increasing digital skills and more affordable smartphones.

Over the forecast period, distinct volumes of 5G subscriptions are expected from 2022, reaching 5 per cent in 2026.

The report also predicted that distinct volumes of 5G subscriptions would be expected from 2022 in sub-Saharan Africa.

While 5G and LTE subscriptions will continue to grow over the next six years, High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) will remain the dominant technology in sub Saharan Africa, with a share of over 40 per cent in 2026, the report said.

“Within Africa, offering-led is the most common strategy, frequently offering a wide range of services linked to mobile subscriptions such as gaming, mobile banking and insurance. A look at service offerings reveals that offering-led service providers tend to couple network performance with specific use cases and end-user expectations, like promoting the best network for video streaming,” the report said.

It added that the offering-led strategy was mostly deployed by challengers, adding that ambition is to be first to market with new offerings. Prominent in this strategy is maintaining a high level of market innovation to capture market share, often with one-for-all offerings, coupled with targeted distribution. These challengers use extensive campaigns and promotional programs to gain traction and capitalise on their ‘first-mover advantage’.

The report said service providers offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), were already on the rise, and listed the three main factors that would drive Fixed Wireless Access growth to include: Firstly, demand from consumers and businesses for digital services continues, driving the need for broadband connectivity. Secondly, FWA delivered over 4G or 5G is an increasingly cost-efficient broadband alternative in areas with limited availability of fixed services. Thirdly, nations are fueling broadband connectivity through programs and subsidies, as it is considered vital for digitalisation efforts and economic growth.